Dame Anne Salmond is Patron of Te Awaroa, A Thousand Rivers. A distinguished academic and environmentalist, and passionate New Zealander, Dame Anne is leading a crucial effort to save our rivers.
“I grew up on the East Coast, where there are two rivers that are very special to me,” she said. “Both are in trouble today.”
“Waterways are like a canary in the cage. If our rivers are sick, our families, communities and businesses also suffer. We need to treat our rivers as taonga, not toilets.”
The problem of river quality is widespread. In 2013, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment reported that 80% of monitored river sites presented ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ water quality. These stark results highlight the national importance of this issue.
The deficient health of New Zealand’s waterways is a danger signal. Allowing our rivers to degrade to the point where we’re breeding waterborne disease and creating toxic dumps will incur widespread damage.
“Rivers can die. They can become toxic. We cannot take it for granted that our rivers will be safe for our children to swim in without getting sick. Why would we tolerate that?”
Learning a lesson from other countries, New Zealand cannot afford for its rivers to degenerate any further. Degraded waterways cost tens or hundreds of millions to clean up, and even then it takes decades to clean a river and restore its ecosystem.
Yet New Zealanders want to take care of their land. 92% of New Zealanders want to see rivers that our families can swim and fish in.
“Our environment and its rivers strike at the heart of our global image. We want New Zealand to continue to be an attractive place to do business and a place where talented people and their families want to live. So much of our economy is dependent on an image of a clean, green, beautiful productive land where food is safe and good and the landscape is breath taking.”
Te Awaroa is about helping our rivers to flourish. Working alongside local people to solve the issue of river quality, Te Awaroa will be a catalyst and support for communities who want to ensure their rivers are healthy.
Using a coordinated ‘whole of catchment’ approach the team at Te Awaroa will work with the breadth of stakeholders – from farmers to scientists to community leaders – to solve river challenges.
“Every river is different. Te Awaroa’s success will be its winning formula of well informed, strategic action carried out by networks made up of scientists, young people, farmers, iwi and other residents, local businesses and councils – taking care of our rivers together.”
In its first, ‘prototyping’ year, the project will start by experimenting with specific rivers and catchment areas, working together with the community to better understand the history of each river, its current challenges and the community it serves, and those actions that will most effectively ensure its health and well-being.
“Together, we’ll brainstorm new ideas and design new initiatives that can be implemented within the local community”.
Dame Anne appreciates it will be a huge challenge.
“We are a small country with a big appetite for taking on formidable challenges. Our challenge is to bring everyone together to make sure that our rivers – the life blood of the land – are thriving.
As New Zealanders, we are passionate about our country. By taking care of our rivers, we are taking care of this beautiful land for our children and grandchildren, and safeguarding its future prosperity. What could be better than that? ”