The importance of water

Last year saw the start of a PF Olsen environmental training initiative that focused on providing operational staff and contractors with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, our natural environment. The first round of training kept a broad focus, coving land and water, flora and fauna, with the key messages of protection and enhancement where possible, use of best management practices, and how the National Environmental Standards will impact the industry.

This November, the second round of training kicked off at Te Kura Whare in Taneatua, with the focus on the importance of water. This topic was chosen because of the current publicity around clean, swimmable waterways, and because of its relevance to all forestry operations.

The day began at 8:30 am with a welcome to Te Kura Whare by Tame Iti, renowned Māori activist. Kit then provided a broad introduction to the training, bringing in the key messages and learnings from the previous year’s session, and tying them into the importance of water focus. Sarah Beadel from Wildlands was the second speaker, covering different types of wetlands and waterways, and some of the flora and fauna encountered there. John Meikle, from Rotorua Fish and Game finished off the first session with an interesting presentation of the importance of waterways from a fish and game species perspective and how forestry can help or hinder species waterway movements.

Tame Iti welcomes environmental training attendees to T Kura Whare. Photo: Jacob Saathof.

After morning tea, Alastair Suren from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council spent 30 minutes explaining how the Council monitors stream health levels by using macroinvertebrates (Macroinvertebrate Index - MCI) and fish species. His recent analysis of forestry sites showed that in terms of water quality, forestry as a land use, while more variable, is performing quite comparably to native bush. The final speaker, Kris Brown from Canterbury University, tied everything together by explaining how forestry operations could enhance or destroy waterways and riparian zones, depending on how they were managed. As part of Kris’s talk, he also ran a table-top exercise for the group, getting everyone to discuss pictures of different forestry operations and what they would do (if anything) to improve the environmental outcomes of the operation.

The afternoon session saw the 65 attendees and presenters split into four groups and head out to two locations in and near Kererutahi Forest. Site One hosted an Engineering Dirtshop run by Dean Neilson and Jacob Saathof of PF Olsen. This session focused on a recently harvested site within Kererutahi and asked participants to drawn on the mornings sessions to say what they would have done differently to improve the environmental outcomes of the site.

Site Two was located on a small perennial stream on the boundary of Kererutahi, next to Wainui Road and surrounded by native bush. This session drew on the morning sessions from John and Alastair, and involved practical demonstrations of calculating the streams MCI and electric fishing. This was probably the most enjoyable and interesting session of the day, with all groups left gobsmacked by the size and type of the fish species produced by the electric fishing of such a small stream. By the end of the afternoon sessions two giant kōkopu (threatened) measuring approximately 20 cm long by 8 cm high, one small eel and a handful of other small fish had all been caught from one 10 metre stretch of water only about 10 cm deep and 50 cm wide.

A third afternoon session on the traditional uses of native plants found in riparian zones was also held at Site Two. This session was run by Robert Whitbourne and Rakau from the Whakatane Department of Conservation office, and was another great practical session for everyone.

Feedback from staff, contractors and presenters was all positive, with many saying how much they’d enjoyed the day and how it had increased their appreciation for waterways, riparian zones and why it’s important to look after them. This training will now be rolled out to staff and contractors in other branches over the first half of 2017.

Thank you to all of those who presented for their efforts, and to Te Kura Whare for hosting us.

One of the giant kōkopu caught during the afternoon’s electric fishing session. Photo: Kit Richards.His recent analysis of forestry sites showed that in terms of water quality forestry as a land use , while more variable is performing quite comparably to native bush.