Caring for the environment  |  22 Mar 2021

Collective action to improve the health of Christchurch’s urban waterways is at the heart of a new charter signed on Monday - World Water Day.

The Community Waterways Partnership Charter has been five years in the making and commits those who sign it to working together, sharing expertise and resources, to improve the ecological health, biodiversity and recreational value of Christchurch’s urban waterways.

Environment Canterbury Councillor Nicole Marshall (left) and Christchurch City Councillor Pauline Cotter sign the Community Waterways Partnership Charter on behalf of their respective Councils.

Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury have both signed the Charter, as have  the University of Canterbury, the Department of Conservation and numerous community groups, schools and businesses. Other organisations, such as Lincoln University and the Canterbury District Health Board, are also considering signing.

Activities planned through the Charter will be aimed at bringing about behavioural changes – at individual, household and community level – to stop contaminants from entering stormwater and waterways, degrading the water quality.

Speaking at Monday’s Charter signing, Associate Minister for the Environment Kiritapu Allan said it was “on the shoulders of us all’’ to ensure the mana of our waterways was retained.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that Te Mana o te Wai is upheld, nurtured and cared for,’’ Minister Allan said.

She commended all those involved in the Community Waterways Partnership Charter for seeing the value of working together, describing it as an exemplar for New Zealand.

She also acknowledged the hard work of those in the community who gave up their evenings and weekends to do the work that ‘was so incredibly needed to restore the mana of our waterways.’’

“I want to take my hat and nod to you all,’’ she said. “I can only thank you for your commitment to the restoration of the waterways here in your city and wish you all the best as you go about the enormous task ahead of you.’’

Christchurch’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Andrew Turner, said it was fitting that the Charter was being signed on World Water Day.

“Today is an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to work collectively and to engage the wide community – friends and whanau – through community initiatives to bring about greater awareness and greater aroha for our waterways. Our goal must be to engender appreciation by the whole community - and an understanding - that it is everyone’s responsibility to improve waterways.’’

Cr Turner said the Council was supporting the partnership through appointing a community waterways advisor to aid collaboration between partners on waterway projects and encourage school educational programmes such as the Healthy River Ōpāwaho initiative.

It was also providing funding for the partnership so that behaviour change, education, research and monitoring programmes could be jointly developed and implemented.

Environment Canterbury Chair Jenny Hughey said the regional council was thrilled to sign the Community Waterways Partnership Charter and looked forward to creating strong partnerships between community groups, iwi, businesses, researchers, and local and central government.

“We are all proactively working to fix our waterways,’’ she said.