Keri Neilson

Keri Neilson

Keri Neilson, New Zealand

Keri Neilson works as the Trust Fund Manager for the Waikato River Authority where she oversees the delivery of more than 100 projects being undertaken with funding from the Waikato River Clean-up Trust.  Prior to this she worked for more than 20 years in catchment, lake and conservation management in New Zealand with roles in local and central government organisations.  Keri was the technical lead in the development of the Waikato and Waipa River Restoration Strategy.

Presentation Title: Waikato and Waipa River Restoration Strategy – an action plan for the restoration of New Zealand’s longest river

The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest and most intensively utilised river. River Iwi revere the Waikato as an ancestor who nourishes and sustains the generations of people and communities that she has founded. Approximately 150 years ago, tribal resources were confiscated leading to years of intensive use of the river. Iwi sought to restore the river through settlement legislation focusing on regulatory change and restoration initiatives. Over the past 6 years, the Co-governance and Co-management approach has significantly changed the environmental and political landscape within the Waikato region. The implementation of the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River and a $220m Clean-up Fund to restore and protect the health and well-being of the river for future generations, potentially sets a benchmark for other large river catchments. In 2014 the Waikato River Authority, Waikato Regional Council and Dairy NZ partnered with Iwi and stakeholders to prepare the Waikato and Waipa River Restoration Strategy.  This was driven by a collective desire to co-ordinate restoration works and maximise the benefits of investment.  The purpose is to guide tangible restoration work through the identification of specific, achievable, and prioritised activities developed in consultation with catchment stakeholders. The Restoration Strategy includes projects addressing erosion and sedimentation, water quality, biodiversity, freshwater fisheries, cultural values and recreation.  Through a process involving literature review, modelling, technical and stakeholder workshops and site visits, approximately 200 projects have been identified, scoped and costed.  Projects range in size from $50,000 to $21,000,000 and cover thousands of hectares of hill country, wetlands, lakes and rivers.  Prioritisation of projects was carried out using the INFFER tool, developed in Australia by Natural Decisions Pty Ltd.  This involved Iwi, stakeholders and landowners being directly involved in decision-making on projects that would best give effect to the Vision and Strategy for the river.

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