Funding for catchment groups needs to be ongoing and non-contestable, says industry representatives speaking at the National Catchment Forum being held at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand this week.

Held by NZ Landcare Trust with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry for the Environment, the forum is the first of its kind in New Zealand, bringing together representatives from catchment groups from throughout the country alongside industry experts.

Pomahaka Water Care Group project chair Lloyd McCall says funding must be steady and ongoing. “I think New Zealand’s catchment groups need to have funding that’s not contestable, that is available to all groups, to avoid creating the situation of the ‘haves and have nots’. A set funding stream is needed,” he says.

“From there, have further contestable funding in place for additional projects. Both Central Government and local councils need to come to us, and work with us on funding. Pomahaka Water Care Group are fortunate that we are one of the ‘haves’ and have had great support over the years, but it’s hard for those who haven’t.”

Speaking at the forum, Dr Amanda Bell of WAI Wānaka chair and programme director, said there was a need for knowledge sharing between catchment groups to ensure each group wasn’t always starting ‘from scratch’.

“We’ve got a lot of the answers already between all of us, a real community of practices. How do we raise that to the next level, so we don’t have to start from scratch with every new catchment group? Our budgets are tight and sharing our knowledge helps to make our funds go further,” Amanda says.

Forum speakers today included a keynote speech from Minister of Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O’Connor, and speakers from catchment groups from throughout New Zealand presenting their group’s work to improve land management practices for positive impacts on local waterways.

NZ Landcare Trust Chief Executive Officer Dr Nick Edgar said the forum brought together catchment group representatives from throughout the country to connect, to share knowledge of their work programmes, to celebrate the successes and the journey of how they were achieved, and to discuss challenges and how they can be overcome.

“Funding, and the need for more of it, has come through strongly as a theme today, combined with a need for stronger collaboration and knowledge sharing across catchment groups. The work being done by these groups is phenomenal, at a grassroots level and often on very tight budgets and heavily reliant on volunteers.”

“We have heard some inspirational stories today, of work being done by catchment groups and the strong, connected communities they have been established by. We just need to continue to build and connect these groups to achieve positive change for our country’s waterways”.