by Ali Mackisack

Kate Wyeth had a whole list of things she wanted to do in Masterton – a long list of “town jobs” to tick off before being interviewed about the plan she’s helped develop to grow and support farmer-led Catchment Communities across the Wairarapa. Instead, she’s still tearing around on the quad at her farm in Kopuaranga, dealing with a mob of cattle who have busted out and are heading fast in the wrong direction. She knows she’s going to be cutting it fine, but she also knows that’s just how things often roll when you’re farming.

And that’s exactly why these farmer-led Catchment Community Groups are going to succeed – because they are being established, coordinated, supported, driven and populated by people whose boots are firmly planted in our local farming communities.

Late last year, just over $1 million was granted to the enviro-network group Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa, to establish and support Catchment Community Groups (CCGs) in the Wairarapa. A CCG is a group of landowners and farmers, taking action to achieve a long-term vision for the catchment, based on a healthy environment and a thriving community. Each CCG is led by local community members. Together, they decide how it operates and what actions to take.

The “catchment” is an identified area (often a geographically-identified area) that has a point of common interest, such as a river, a stretch of road, a community hall or a school.

Kate Wyeth is the chair for the steering committee, which has come up with a plan for getting more CCGs up and running, and for overseeing how they’re supported. The plan involves running workshops for those who are interested in setting up a group, financial support to get the community together to get things started and some financial support for a group coordinator. It also includes access to experts and facilitators, and the chance to get data about water quality and animal pests in the catchment.

“The main message here, is that you don’t need to do this on your own,” says Kate. “Sure, there’s the regulation side of things – and it often makes sense to learn about and plan for these regulations at a catchment level rather than an individual farm-plan level. But this is more about supporting groups to action their own projects to get results in an area that they’ve identified as important to their community.”

“Many farmers and landowners are already doing a lot of work around water quality, pest management, protecting wetlands or native planting on their own farms. By forming a Catchment Community Group they can get access to a lot more support, share knowledge, problems and solutions, and make more of an impact. And there’s a heap of other benefits to be had, just by coming together as a community and getting to know the people and the place in a wider way.”

The support doesn’t fall away once a group is up and running. Two regional coordinators have been appointed, and they’ll be the first point of contact for the groups. One of the coordinators will focus on integrating Māori voices into a catchment plan, and both will be able to link groups with the support available through the Greater Wellington Regional Council. The coordinators will find the experts that groups want to tap into, make sure any scheduled water testing gets done, share information to and between the groups, and ensure that those in CCG admin roles have all the information they need

“Once a CCG is functioning, one of the key things it will enable farmers and landowners to do, is to make decisions based on their own local data and also to celebrate,” says Kate Wyeth. “All this environmental stuff is going to become part of how we farm, and also part of how we celebrate and how we tell our story.”

“Most of us are doing a pretty good job, but we don’t really have a way to record the data and decisions and improvements. We can’t tell our story to our overseas markets very clearly, because we don’t always have the specifics to tell it. Collecting data and making decisions as a group means that we can record changes over time. Instead of looking at good environmental decisions with a regulatory lens, we can see it instead as a huge opportunity.”

Catchment Communities Field Day | 9 February | 4.00 pm

Networking events and workshops will be an important part of the support offered to groups.

The first of these events is being held in Carterton next Wednesday afternoon. The field day will be a chance for those interested to learn about the support available for existing and new Catchment Community Groups and to hear from established groups who already have plans and projects underway.

If you’d like to attend the first field day, you can register at before 4 February.

See full event details.


Catchment Leaders

CCG Steering Group Chair, Kate Wyeth (second from left) and WaiP2K Chair, Gill Murray (third from left), with other catchment group leaders and Hon. Damian O’Conner at the recent MPI funding announcement (Source: Harriet Gibson, Rangitikei Rivers Catchment Collective)