Lisa Stevenson and her husband John believe it’s important for farmers to have a say on environmental regulations which have significant impacts on farming families and livelihoods. This is the main reason they became involved with setting up the Parkvale Catchment Charitable Trust. They also want to ensure that the water running through and around their farm is clean and abundant so it can continue to support the life it sustains.

“In 2019, farmers in the Parkvale catchment were informed by the Regional Council that they had been put on a schedule which would mean tight restrictions on farming in the area,” says Lisa. “This was due to high nitrate levels in the Parkvale Stream.”

“So a group of local farmers got together with the view to being proactive about looking after the waterways in our catchment. Looking through Council water data, it’s been interesting to discover that there are a number of nitrate “hot spots” bubbling up from groundwater, near to the fault-line in the mid-catchment. However, lower down the catchment – where more intensive farming activity is happening, the nitrate level is lower. It’s something of an anomaly and something we hope to make more sense of, as we work with the Regional Council to undertake more water testing.”

The Parkvale farming community getting underway with riparian planting

The Parkvale farming community getting underway with riparian planting

“We see the group as an opportunity to bring the whole community together, both farmers and small-block holders to reach a common goal,” Lisa says. “If we (as farmers) can work alongside the small-block holders, then it’s a chance to understand each other and to see how actions and regulations impact each sort of land use.”

And it’s not just farmers who are and can be involved. The group would love to get more locals involved with the work their Community Catchment Group (CCG) is doing, as well as get people to make connections with the catchment area itself. This year they plan to connect with both local small-block holders as well as their local schools. “The more we do, the more visible we become to the wider community,” says Lisa. “And through hearing about what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do, hopefully, more and more people will want to be part of positive changes in our catchment area.”

She’s quick to recommend that more landowners and stakeholders get involved in CCGs. “It’s not just about the environment,” she says. “There’s also getting to know your neighbours and engaging with your community. On top of that, it’s an opportunity to show that landowners are being really proactive – that everyone can make a difference.”

Ali Mackisack for WaiP2K