Local Government Magazine
Technical Briefings

Reviving the Maitai River

Maitai River

In our new series of technical briefings, we highlight a paper presented at the recent 2016 Water New Zealand Stormwater Conference in Nelson.

Iconic urban waterway and storm-water channel: reviving the Maitai River. By Jo Martin (Nelson City Council) and Ami Kennedy (Friends of the Maitai).
Project Maitai- Stormwater conference paper
Working in partnership with iwi, the community and key agencies in the region, Nelson City Council has embarked on a four-year restoration project for the Maitai River, called Project Maitai / Mahitahi.
The goal is to improve the health of the Maitai River and its tributaries; so that we can swim safely, collect kai and value this taonga (treasure) as an integral part of Nelson’s physical and cultural landscape.
The Maitai River has many important roles. It provides the city’s drinking water and acts as a stormwater and flood channel. It is the tupuna awa (ancestral river) for the Iwi of Whakatu and is important to all the Iwi of Te Tau Ihu.
It is also a key recreational asset, and part of Nelson’s cultural landscape. There is some tension between these roles which makes the collaborative nature of this project especially important.
At only 18 kilometres long, the Maitai River can be divided into three sections each with a different set of impacts: the municipal water supply reservoir in the upper catchment; widespread forestry and recreational activity in the mid catchment; urban activity in the lower catchment where the river runs right through the city and finishes in the sensitive receiving waters of the tidal Nelson Haven.
This makes the Maitai River a useful case study to look at a wide range of water quality impacts and possible interventions in a small area.
The project itself provides a good example of how the community can actively be involved in a council-based project from decision-making to implementation, and illustrates the importance of internal cross-council collaboration to address water quality issues.
The full paper discusses the structure of the Project Maitai / Mahitahi programme, the ways in which stakeholders and community are involved, and the successes and lessons learnt to date for both water quality outcomes and project processes.
Presenter profiles
Jo Martin is a member of the environmental programmes team at Nelson City Council and is the programme coordinator for Project Maitai / Mahitahi. She has been at Nelson City Council for eight years in a variety of roles, and has a background in science, environmental education and project management.
Ami Kennedy is one of the founding members of the current Friends of the Maitai group. Friends of the Maitai promotes collaborative responsibility for the health of waterways, and provides community members with a place to learn about the issues facing our rivers and be involved in taking positive action.
This paper has been written collaboratively with several members of the group including David Ayre, Alison Horn and Steven Gray.

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