NZers not as caring about fresh water
27 September 2012
New Zealanders are not as caring for the country's fresh water as we would like the world to believe.
When University of Canterbury master's science student Annabelle Coates set out to do her research on voluntary stream monitoring she found that there was quite a lot of literature in British Columbia in Canada on voluntary programmes and even a number of different programmes in the United States. There was very little literature about it in New Zealand, although she thought it would be easy to find voluntary groups caring for freshwater streams.
But she was "surprised there was not a lot out there.” She found a website that sounded like great work was being done in the Wellington region. However, when she enquired, the work had stopped a number of years ago.
Annabelle is based at the Waterways Centre, a joint venture between the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University. She finally found three groups to work with around the country, including one in Christchurch.
The Styx Living Laboratory Trust in Christchurch monitors the Styx River and it is one of the healthiest urban streams in New Zealand. The Heathcote and Avon rivers have no voluntary monitoring programmes and Annabelle said the differences between the variation in insect populations (one measure of a healthy stream) in these rivers is stark.
The Styx River has only been partially urbanised for about 15 years, compared to the 150 years of urbanisation for the Avon and Heathcote rivers. However, there are going to be big changes around the Styx River with large residential subdivisions planned around the lower reaches. The volunteer monitoring will help to show if this causes any change in the river.
While regional and city councils monitor rivers, the volunteers are able to do it more regularly. One of Annabelle’s aims is to improve the way the volunteers collect the data so it is more comparable with the experts.
She said from her research what “people learn from being involved in monitoring streams was at least equal to the data gained. The volunteers, by being involved with a river, feel they are making a difference. People become more environmentally aware and develop a sense of ownership, which are all good things."
Talking to teachers who have involved their students in the voluntary scheme, Anabelle found that the students also began to monitor the streams near their homes just by looking at the insect life.
"It is good that another generation is becoming environmentally aware," she said.
Annabelle hoped her research will provide a report that can be used not only by volunteer freshwater monitoring groups overseas and in New Zealand but also help increase the number of voluntary groups around the country monitoring our fresh water.
"It only takes an hour and half once a month and you are doing something for your community,” Annabelle said.
For further information please contact:
Communications and External Relations
University of Canterbury
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