Pānui/Newsletter April 2021
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A measure of health for Te Waihī Estuary Catchment, will be when giant pīpī are healthy and thriving at the river mouth, safe to eat all of the time, and native aquatic fauna like the giant kōkopu are thriving the full length of the arterial waterways that feed into Te Waihī, from the Volcanic Plateau to the sea. 


This meeting in the catchment has been confirmed for 3pm-5.30pm on Wednesday 19 May, Pongakawa Hall.

We look forward to hearing your best ideas on how we can heal this catchment, where at the moment there is a permanent shellfish gathering ban.

There's a BONUS MYSTERY PRIZE for the agribusiness leader whose idea or action will enable long-lasting climate resilience and water health at Te Waihī estuary.

Message from the Chair: Andre Hickson

For me personally there have been surprises after seeing some of the early results from our properties. Information coming out of all the work streams will influence how we farm and I have been reflecting on why we have developed our ‘recipes’ for how we farm and orchard, based on our experiences over time. We can take things for granted and trust without questioning.
I've also been reflecting that some of us may have to start re-examining our systems based on the real data being collected throughout the catchment. It’s exciting!

Finally, if anyone has any concerns regarding any of our programmes please contact me or one of our team.

Andre Hickson - CHAIR

Introducing ... the Wai Kōkopu Governance Group

This month we'd like to introduce the Wai Kōkopu Incorporated co-governance group. This community-driven rōpū connects, informs and lobbies agencies, organisations, industry and landowners towards achieving the reductions required to meet catchment water quality targets. The group is supported by appropriate hau kāinga/local representation at governance and operational levels with relevant guidance from the primary sector groups, local authorities and community care groups.

Left to right: Ross Bawden, James (Mel) Anderson, Esther Kirk, Andre Hickson (Chair), Darryl Jensen, Larissa Wharepouri, John Burke, John Scrimegour.
Absent: Paora Tapsell, Rick Rapana.


  • FARM ADVISORS' MEETING - 3pm-5.30pm, Wednesday 19 May, Pongakawa Hall.
  • WAI-KŌKOPU LAUNCH, likely in the first week of July. Keep watching this space for details.
  • ZESPRI is bringing science advisors and planners to Andre's orchard for a down to earth tour of how we collaboratively construct farm plans that simultaneously complement sectors and the health of our catchment.

From the Catchment: Alison Dewes

Alison Dewes

We've settled on the third Wednesday / Thursday of every month as the date to (try to) get this pānui out, and even though our March issue only went out three weeks ago, there is already so much to report on! 

We're making progress on engaging with the agricultural sector, Zespri, Fonterra, and Farm Consultants in the catchment as part of our efforts to help all parties understand the incredible challenges we face.


The farm plans, executed in the catchment, are put into practice to improve the health of the waterways, estuary and aquifers (shallow groundwater). They also essentially give effect to Te Mana o te Wai which means we all collectively must put the health of the water first so it can not only sustain its own health, but the health of the people and associated ecosystems.

Farm plans in the future will need to be focused on their own catchment and the catchment needs. In the Little Waihī estuary, Pongakawa, Wharere and Kaikokopu, we are working with farmers across the three zones, and look forward to sharing with you the patterns of what we find as we progress.
Remember the water travels via the whenua (land and soil) and the health of the water is also a reflection of the health of the soil in our catchment.

Nutrient-rich rivers load up lakes and estuarine environments with nutrient which drives primary growth in water using up oxygen and life support capacity.
The wai and the whenua interact as one. The health of one directly impacts on the health of the other, much like our our circulatory system. 


We are doing a lot of soil monitoring, not only for the key nutrients of nitrogen and phosphorus, but also the contaminants that accompany an overuse of phosphorus fertiliser, i.e. cadmium.  To do this it's essential we understand the catchment problem, not only at the estuary but also in the sub-catchments. We are therefore developing sub-catchment groups and will monitor soil and water health in the sub-catchments, and familiarise ourselves with what mitigations are required towards improving health in those zones.

Working alongside our key industries, there is a clear acknowledgment that we can all pull back our reliance on nitrogen, and in the most intensive zones there are also significant gains to reducing phosphorus use.

Phosphorus runs across the soil in episodic events creating havoc. Climate change will increase the frequency of these runoff events. Nitrogen travels through the soil and sometimes takes years to decades to reach receiving water bodies.


As we amass more information we will keep you updated, but the short story is – question your fertiliser use and ask yourself if you really need what you are applying.

Consider more testing on your farm, question your applications, ask your fertiliser rep if you really need it and consider doing total nitrogen tests as well to ascertain if parts of your farm will even respond to nitrogen. 

Five years ago, a SFF study we conducted in Waikato on well-established dairy farms showed up to one third of the area wasn't responding to nitrogen fertiliser as the soil was already saturated with nitrogen. The total nitrogen was at a point that there was very little benefit to adding more; thus, this nitrogen was contributing to spillover and runoff to the receiving water body.

There is good evidence that farms are able to use less nitrogen, yet still be as productive and profitable as those using three times the amount of urea or nitrogen. Some farms in the catchment are using over 200 kg N per ha per year, while others are using less than 80 kg N per ha per year. There is not a direct link between nitrogen use and profitability.

In some cases, more nitrogen can just result in more runoff. The secret is to find out where the sweet zone is for your farm, and your soils, so you don’t put more inputs in than you need, and you don’t create harmful environmental effects with runoff or leaching.

Many of the farms and orchards we've sampled have up to three to four times the soil levels required for phosphorus, and could quite easily take an extended phosphorus holiday.

FINDING THE SWEET ZONE (for land, water and people)

Some farms are far more intensive than they need to be, and many could be easing back - the farms, their land, and their animals. More intensive farm systems, if not managed well, can have more significant effects on the receiving environment without being any more profitable. In fact, higher intensity systems have more risk in the business, because they are dependent on marginal returns. The secret is finding the sweet zone, with the least effects, and the strongest economic resilience.

At the Farm Advisors' meeting on 19 May we will be looking for the agribusiness that can show leadership and seeking ideas as to what can be done to halve the footprint and maintain your clients' profit. 
[Dewes MSc thesis]

Expressions of interest wanted: Upper Pongakawa Steering Group 

Throughout the catchment we are creating smaller sub-catchment groups, which are groups of land-owners centering around the major rivers in the Waihī catchment, such as the Pongakawa, Kaikōkopu, Wharere, Mangatoetoe and Puanene.

The purpose of these groups is to carry out detailed water quality monitoring across the tributaries in each sub-catchment, discuss and solve issues specific to the sub-catchment, and to involve more land-owners in Wai Kōkopu’s work. Local kiwifruit grower and Wai Kōkopu Board member Ross Bawden is setting up an Upper Pongakawa Steering Group with assistance from Wai Kokopu’s Tom Anderson. We hope to initially bring this group together to provide a place for catchment residents to discuss the Pongakawa catchment and any environmental issues within it, whether it be around water quality, conservation, or land use.

Ross and Tom carried out water quality monitoring at a few sites around the Pongakawa catchment in March – the results of this monitoring will be discussed at the first meeting. We hope to have the Steering Group’s first meeting sometime in May. If you are based in the Pongakawa catchment (upstream of SH2) and would like to be added to the Steering Group’s mailing list to stay up to date and attend the Group’s first meeting, please email

Seeking Rangatahi / Taitamariki scientists

Do you know an aspiring scientist?  
If you know a budding marine biologist, ecologist or environmental scientist who has whakapapa connections to the catchment then get in touch by emailing
We would like to engage a young Māori science student to undertake postgraduate studies (Masters or PhD), with their research focussing on Te Waihī Estuary.
Their work would monitor an aspect of the estuary or catchment and would produce novel research, contributing to our knowledge about the ecological processes within our catchment.

Wai-Kōkopu board member James (Mel) Anderson (Ngāti Whakahemo) with Jan Hania from NEXT Foundation on a tour of the catchment. Mel is guiding us with a vision for replenishing the whenua.

Wai-Kōkopu supporter Hannah Fromont with Jan Hania from NEXT Foundation use a drone to observe discharges flowing into the estuary. 

Puanene Work

From Thomas Grant and Andre Hickson
In the mid to lower parts of the catchment a number of waterways become channelised with steep banks that cause issues with river hydrology and bank erosion. This issue can be heightened with fence lines placed too close to the stream edge.

One solution to this problem is battering the banks of the drain or stream to a 2:1 batter to create a V-shaped  profile. This stabilises the bank, provides more hydraulic capacity and creates a larger surface for appropriate riparian planting.
This solution has been implemented on the PAX Hickson Trust property where the Puanene stream flows.
Planting these areas with appropriate species that work with the hydrology of the river by falling flat during higher flows is critical to ensuring long-term maintenance is minimal and any erosion or flooding issues are not transferred elsewhere.

Within 2-3 years of planting a relatively decent riparian margin is established that significantly contributes to improving water quality parameters through filtering of contaminant runoff, reducing stream bank erosion and providing significant shading.

Winter reminders

With winter on the way, here are a few important reminders:
  • Keep the soil on the hills and out of the estuary! 
  • Avoid pugging, bare soil, and try to just do minimum tillage for crops and cultivation
  • Keep heavy stock off the hills where you can.

Stay connected

Thanks to everyone who has given us such positive feedback about this pānui. We look forward to collaborating with you so that we're all working together to inspire and invigorate the replenishment of the whenua and health of Waihī estuary (Te Waihī).

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