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Published: 2011-04-26 00:00:00

A Waikato Regional Council team has travelled to Thailand to help remedy one of the country’s most polluted rivers, the Tha Chin River.

The council’s involvement in the project, coordinated by the Ministry for the Environment, is recognition of the water quality expertise that has developed in the Waikato, says Councillor Paula Southgate, a member of the team and chair of the policy and strategy committee.

Cr Southgate, scientist Dr Peter Singleton and resource manager Natasha Hayward will this week work with a regional environment office in Thailand to share experiences on water management.

The project is taking place under the Environmental Cooperation Agreement between New Zealand and Thailand, which was signed in 2005 in the context of the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement.

Cr Southgate said it was a privilege to participate in the project and would also give the council an opportunity to learn from the overseas experience.

“The Ministry for the Environment has recognised that Waikato Regional Council’s experience in managing the health of our waterways is relevant in an international context,” she said.

Last December, Thailand’s Pollution Control department (PCD) announced that the overall water quality in that country’s major rivers had deteriorated by 39 per cent over 10 years.  

The Tha Chin River, with a catchment area covering 13,000 sq km, was identified as the most polluted. A large proportion of runoff to the Tha Chin River comes from agricultural areas, and the regional council has significant experience in managing farming-related water quality issues.

“The Waikato region has similar issues affecting its waterways and, while we still have a way to go in improving river water quality in some areas, our experience in regional planning and working with communities and business will help Thailand in the drafting of its community participation framework,” said Cr Southgate.

In June, the council will host a number of Thai delegates and their international consultants who will be looking at practices around community participation to protect and restore waters.

Funding for the project is coming from the Ministry for the Environment and the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network.