“You don’t know what you don’t know,” says Lynsey Parkes, Coordinator for the Wakamoekau Catchment group. And before the farmers and lifestylers of Matahiwi Rd near Masterton came together as a catchment group, they didn’t know nearly as much about the waterway that connects their properties, or which pests were having the most impact on local biodiversity, and in some cases, who their neighbours were.

Now they have a bigger picture of their catchment, a clearer understanding of how it’s been affected by land use practices and pest species, and a vision of their catchment in 50 year’s time. Not to mention a better neighbourhood vibe going on as a result of a reason to get together and a shared sense of purpose.

“Our group came together because we wanted to take action for ecological aspects of our area,” says Lynsey, “but also for those social aspects of bringing a community together. Within our catchment area there are 4 big farms and a few smaller lifestyle blocks. We saw this invitation to set up a Community Catchment Group as a way of having a “reason” to get together.”

The group had 4 initial meetings, facilitated by Esther Dijkstra of WaiP2K, to set up the group, make a plan and set out a vision. Lynsey became the group’s coordinator, which means she gets a small amount of funding from WaiP2K each month to do the administration and communications work.

“Meetings are organised as and when they’re needed,” Lynsey says. “Doing a creek walk and getting water testing underway was a priority, and those are things we’ve ticked off.”

A group of people watching a person set up nets and water measuring equipment at Wakamoekau Creek side
We’ve also had 2 presenters talk to us about predator control, as feral cats are a massive problem in this area. John Bissel from BackBlocks Environmental Management Ltd is helping us to put a plan in place.”

The group has found that getting actions happening means getting agencies such as the Regional Council involved. “There are always lots of great ideas coming up,” says Lynsey, “but the time, ability and commitment needed to get things done just isn’t always there. For many of us in the catchment, these types of projects are not part of our day job and it can be hard to find time to get things done. We need the agencies to make things happen if anything is to happen at scale. An example is flood protection work – the Wakamoekau has had two massive floods this year and there’s not a lot we can put in place ourselves to stop that happening again.”

In the meantime, planting for erosion control and to develop a native tree corridor are next on list, along with further developing the catchment plan and applying for funding. “That’s another advantage, especially for lifestylers, in being part of a catchment group,” says Lynsey. “It’s an opportunity to have a voice, but also to tap into various funding pools which are not accessible to landowners as individuals.”

Story by Ali Mackisack for WaiP2K