In a short space of just a few years, Southland catchment groups now cover an amazing 90 percent of the region, thanks to the work of Thriving Southland and the NZ Landcare Trust.

Thriving Southland Project Chair Richard Kyte recently spoke at the NZ Landcare Trust’s National Catchment Forum, held at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa over October 5-6.

His presentation was based on a ground up approach to change.

“It’s important to put the science in the hands of the farmers and communities to enable them to make a real difference,” he says.

NZ Landcare Trust were instrumental in the beginning stages of what has now grown into the three- year project Thriving Southland – a community-led group with a vision to create a prosperous Southland, healthy people and a healthy environment from the mountains to the sea. Thriving Southland works with catchment groups throughout the region to educate and implement good management practices on farms and land near waterways.

With farmers and their communities had already set up 13 catchment groups with support from sector groups and local agencies, when in 2017, the work amplified with NZ Landcare Trust applied to the Ministry for Primary Industries for funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund. The funding application, supported by Environment Southland, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, Deer Industry New Zealand, and the Southland Branch of the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association and farmer groups, was successful and the Southland Farmer-Led Community Catchment Groups project was created.

The three-year project was to support the development of sustainable farmer-led Catchment Groups across Southland, and help them identify their local issues, implement solutions (including Good Management Practices), and improve water quality within their catchments and across Southland.

The idea was to create more Catchment Groups that were cross-sector; including sheep, beef, dairy, deer, arable, horticulture and took a holistic whole of community approach across urban and rural communities. The success of the project ensured its longevity, with Thriving Southland taking the reins from mid-2021, with continued success with numbers growing from 18 to 35 groups.

“The success of the groups has been down to getting the right support at the right time, both from NZ Landcare Trust and Thriving Southland, as well as other stakeholders. Thanks to the time and effort put in by farmers and their communities, there is now a great model of community engagement,” Richard says.

For more information, check out Thriving Southland’s website.

It’s important to put the science in the hands of the farmers and communities to enable them to make a real difference.