The story so far
When Environment Southland announced in 2011 the Waituna Lagoon was in danger of 'flipping' - changing to a murky, turbid state dominated by algae - Waituna locals got together to create a catchment action plan to ensure a sustainable future for the Waituna Lagoon and the community. As part of this, individual farm action plans were drawn up and farmers are implementing a range of practical actions to protect the health of the lagoon, the catchment and the wider Southland environment.
There are complex reasons for the declining health of the lagoon. Land management practices are one part of the picture so improving practices becomes part of the solution.
DairyNZ, with other partners, has been involved from the start with science and research to help everyone understand lagoon health, farming practices and the social and economic impact of potential changes. This helps sound decision making.
What the farmers say
Dairy farmers want to be sustainable and they want future generations to be farming on the land so they aren't out there to degrade rivers or estuaries or cause damage to the catchment.Graeme McKenzie - Waituna dairy farmer
Getting involved - what farmers have learnt along the way
- Be proactive so that you don’t have to act under pressure.
- Define who your community is. Make sure that everyone is represented from an early stage.
- Approach the challenge with in a united way. It pays to have an agreed strategy from the outset.
- Build a network and use the resources of industry organisations.
- Get in front of the decision makers. Tell your story, make it personal so people understand the impacts on your farm, your family and the community
- Use the expertise of individuals in your community who can contribute at different stages of a project. Working as a team makes the journey easier.
What's happening now?
Measures underway to reduce nutrient loads include piloting constructed wetlands, trialling filter treatment beds at the ends of tile trains (The Nitrate Catcher), engineering channel banks and upgrading dairy farm effluent systems.
A draft strategy and action plan for the Waituna Lagoon and catchment has been prepared by the Waituna Partners and working groups. This discussion document was released for community consultation and input on 13 April 2015. Waituna landowners and DairyNZ representatives were part of this working group.
What have farmers achieved so far?
The majority of farmers
- Improved or installed new effluent systems costing $100,000-$150,000 each. These increase the capacity to store effluent and help ensure good effluent application management.
- Improved drainage from laneways around milking platforms to help ensure run-off doesn’t enter waterways.
- Changed to low-rate effluent irrigation to help reduce nutrient leaching
They've also taking action in nutrient management including:
- Mapping and replacing tile drains to reduce the risk of nutrients leaching into waterways.
- Fencing off parts of paddocks identified as nutrient leaching ‘hotspots’.
- Using less urea as part of an overall nutrient management plan.
Overall farmers have:
- Fenced off many kilometres of waterways.
- Increased riparian planting.
- Improving rubbish management.
- Fenced off areas of native bush.
Check out our findings so far
- Economic impacts of nutrient limits on Waituna farms and catchment (Factsheet)
- Social impacts of nutrient limits on Waituna farms and catchment (Factsheet)
- Social impacts of nutrient limits on Waituna farms and catchment (Report)
- The nitrate catcher trial
- Engineering options for managing Waituna Lagoon water levels and values (Factsheet)
- Engineering options for managing Waituna Lagoon water levels and values (Full report)
Frequently asked questions
Where is the Waituna Lagoon and why is it significant?
Waituna Lagoon is on the southern coastline of the South Island of New Zealand, 35.5 km south east of Invercargill.
The 1350ha lagoon is at the heart of the Awarua Wetland, one of the largest remaining wetland complexes in New Zealand and home to many different species of insects, fish, plants and birds. The total catchment area is 20,000 hectares. Migratory birds travel long distances from the Northern Hemisphere to feed in the lagoon during the southern summer. The lagoon is an area of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.
What is the Waituna Catchment?
The Waituna Catchment includes three streams that flow into the lagoon. They are: Moffat Creek, Carrans Creek and Waituna Creek.
These creeks and other small waterways and drains make up the drainage network which transports water, sediment, nutrients and other material from the land to the Waituna Lagoon.
What is "flipping"?
'Flipping' is the change from having clear water with healthy populations of underwater plants to murky, turbid water dominated by algae.
Such a shift would degrade the fishery, birdlife, wetland values, as well as the cultural, and recreation values of the lagoon.
What is the Ramsar Convention?
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become "Contracting Parties".
Who is working together?
Waituna dairy farmers, DairyNZ, Environment Southland, Department of Conservation, Ngāi Tahu, Fonterra, Federated Farmers, Beef and Lamb, Southland District Council, Fish and Game Southland and several community groups including iwi and residents.
For further information about Waituna Lagoon visit the Environment Southland website.