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The Council has monitored water quality across the region since 1996 and today, monitors over 30 sites on a monthly basis. Over time—and following changes in land use—water quality has become degraded in some rivers, relative to the current uses that these rivers support or have historically supported.

While the Council has identified which monitoring sites are healthy and which are degrading, the Catchment Care programme would provide the next step of diagnosing and mitigating the sources of degradation. For example, water quality monitoring could signal changes in nutrient levels (nitrate and phosphorus), sediment or bacteria of some catchments. In response, Catchment Care addresses the sources of these contaminants in a collaborative manner with landowners.

Marlborough has three major catchments, those of the Wairau and Awatere Rivers and the Te Hoiere - Rai/Pelorus River. The creation of the Catchment Care programme expands the role of Council from monitoring these catchments to partnering with landowners on solutions, facilitating catchment enhancement groups, helping to implement remediation work, providing some financial support for remedial work, and post-work monitoring to measure success.

Increasing public interest in water quality have led to three core objectives for the programme:

  • Protect or improve water quality in the Marlborough region. This objective seeks to minimise losses of nutrients, bacteria or sediment from the land which can lead to a deterioration in water quality and affect sensitive receiving environments.
  • Reduce erosion and sediment production. Erosion of soils reduces the productive capability of land and produces sediment, which can collect downstream and adversely affect sensitive receiving environments.
  • Protect sensitive receiving environments. These environments may include both natural and built areas. Natural receiving environments might include wetlands, forest, streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries and the coastal marine environment. Damage to these areas can affect biodiversity, ecosystem services and amenity values. Built environments include towns, roads, bridges, homes and farms. Damage to these typically results in financial and social costs to communities.

Meeting these objectives help to meet the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Management (NESFM) goals to stop further degradation of freshwater resources, improving water quality within five years, reversing past damage and protecting Te Mana o Te Wai.

The Catchment Care programme is funded by Ministry for the Environment and Council through 2025. By working together, the Council and communities across Marlborough can create long-term outcomes to protect and enhance catchments and water quality in our region.