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Published: 2015-07-15 00:00:00

Bacteria that can make people sick, water clarity, the build up of algae, and nutrients are to be targetted as part of work to protect and restore Waikato and Waipā rivers.

The work is an element of the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project which is developing a regional plan change aimed at boosting the well-being of the two rivers. It involves close co-operation between Waikato Regional Council and five river iwi partners.

The project’s multi-sector Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) has now decided on some of the attributes of freshwater that should be measured in the Waikato and Waipā river catchments under the plan change.

When it comes to the health of people using waterways for recreation, E.coli, clarity and planktonic cyanobacteria (which can produce toxins) are proposed to be measured.

For ecosystem health, a range of freely floating algae known as phytoplankton, are intended to  be targetted.

In lakes and lake-fed rivers, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, nitrate and ammonia are proposed be measured.

The CSG will be looking at issues related to mahinga kai (food gathering) and fishing at its  workshop next month. It has already confirmed that E.coli and planktonic cyanobacteria are due to be measured when it comes to mahinga kai and fishing.

The proposals will need to be endorsed by the Health Rivers Wai Ora committee and the regional council.

Meanwhile, the CSG will be seeking public feedback on its thinking during a range of opportunities over September and October.

CSG chair Bill Wasley said: “Everyone in the Waikato and Waipa river catchments, and beyond, uses water in some way, and we want to hear from all of them.

“Feedback will help us to finalise the solution we’ll recommend to the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee by the end of this year,” he added.

The CSG are planning to make it easy for people to provide feedback by running online surveys, community workshops, “out and about” days for different sectors and a larger workshop.

The workshop will be during the day on Tuesday 13 October at the Claudelands Conference and Exhibition Centre in Hamilton. Everyone is invited to attend this workshop.

People can also go to www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/healthyrivers and sign up to be part of solutions to river health. Those signing up will be provided with information on having their say on the issues.