Farmers worked alongside children, environmentalists, iwi and regulators on Sunday to help bring the Hinds River back to life.
The group planted 600 native plants and lobbed seed bombs that will help transform Environment Canterbury’s second managed aquifer recharge (MAR) site from a scrubby riverbed into a lizard habitat and wetlands.
The Hekeao/Hinds River project is part of a wider mission to improve water quantity and quality in the Ashburton district and the area will become part of a network of MAR sites.
Water released from the nearby Rangitata Diversion Race as part of the Ashburton District Council’s consented stockwater take is being siphoned into the riverbed off Montalto Klondyke Road and allowed to leak down into underground aquifers.
The water will help raise groundwater levels and dilute nitrate concentrations, as it has done around the site of the original pilot MAR at Lagmhor.
Sixteen other potential MAR sites have been identified in the Ashburton and testing is under way at six.
The Hinds site was officially opened on Sunday and blessed by iwi.
MAR governance group chairman Peter Lowe said the Hinds River bisected the Mid Canterbury plains and governance group had recognised its need for enhancement early on.
The second MAR would not only enhance groundwater quality and quantity, but create habitats for at-risk wildlife like skinks and geckos and improve the community drinking water supply for nearby Mayfield, he said.
Arowhenua kaumatua Te Wera King said the MAR was a chance to celebrate a water win and while the parties involved did not always see eye to eye, the Hinds project was an achievement.
Central South Island Fish and Game officer Mark Webb said the Hinds MAR had been achieved without years of talk.
Farmers had rolled their sleeves up and got involved, with parties learning along the way.
“It has been one of the best things I have done with my time in Fish and Game.”
Ashburton District Councillor Stuart Wilson, who lived beside the Hinds River for much of his working life, said council had allowed 500 litres/second for MAR and it had been shown to work.
Continuing access to that council water and other water is important for the success of the project, which will need 1500l/sec. Finding the extra needed will be a delicate exercise for the governance group, but being able to point to their success so far will be helpful.
ECan’s elected Mid Canterbury councillor John Sunckell said MAR was helping rebalance water in the rivers and in the environment and the Mid Canterbury sites were templates for other areas also addressing water quality and quantity issues. Work on a MAR site near the Selwyn River was about to begin.
Managing recharge this way also eased tension around Maori concerns about mixing water from different sources, he said.
– By Linda Clarke