The National Wetland Symposium held this week in Invercargill was attended by nearly 200 delegates. The symposium draws together practitioners, scientists, and local government agency staff from throughout the country. Spiralis Ltd was represented by Paul Pope who presented a paper on his project management of the Waihola Waipori Wetlands weed control programme. The variety of papers and discussions that were held were well complimented by two days of wetland field trips to some fascinating sites. Guy Salmon from the Ecologic Foundation and the Land and Water Forum gave a challenging and thought-provoking keynote address on the present state of New Zealand’s Regional Council’s who have been managing water and wetland resources under the Resource Management Act 1991 for 20 years. While not everyone may agree with Guy’s assessment, the address was a timely reminder of the place and position that Regional Council’s play in resource management as the current government considers the implementation of Local Government reforms. Guy’s address critically looked at some of the issues that Regional Council’s face with water management including;
- the lack of relationship between resources and needs
- the technical fragmentation of expertise and knowledge from within and externally of Council’s
- an electoral system that where rural interests may dominate
- the low profile and low engagement of Regional Council’s with communities
- a lack of national direction over resource management.
Keynote speaker, Dr Andy West, Professor of Agribusiness at the University of Waikato gave a very challenging address on the condition of the world as the planet approaches a population of ten billion people by the year 2050. He reminded the audience that we will need to make important resource decisions at a local and international level if we are able to sustainably feed the growing population. The global economic forces of wealth creation and consumption will be critical challenges for New Zealand’s primary production economy. Dr West suggested that greater use of technology to ensure “smarter” forms of pasture, soil and water management are essential under the weight of such global drivers.
Coupled with the delegates and speakers from community groups, farmers and agencies the symposium did develop a number of recurring themes which face us all in New Zealand over wetland management and these included;
a need to share and centralise technical and scientific information between groups, agencies and the scientific community
that water and wetlands are crucial to our economic and environmental well-being
that local management needs to be seen in context at a national level
partnerships between communities, industry and agencies are essential for successful wetland and water management
Overall the symposium was a very thought-provoking few days that reminds us that communities throughout the country are grappling with the complexity of wetland and water management for the good of our economy and environment.