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Irrigation company commits to biodiversity corridor

By 3 April 2023News

South Canterbury irrigation company Opuha Water Ltd (OWL) will support local environmental inititives by working with its shareholders to identify biodiversity opportunities on their properties, with the long-term goal of creating a biodiverse corridor that stretches from the mountains to the sea.

OWL Chair Ryan O’Sullivan says the board approved a biodiversity budget of $128,000 to fund the first year’s work on a coordinated approach to achieving, “an enduring biodiverse corridor centred on our local waterways, from the mountains to the sea – Ki uta ki tai – as part of OWL’s long term (20-30 year) strategy.”

“The fact that our shareholders have access to water for their business is a privilege we, and they, don’t take for granted,” O’Sullivan says. “Our biodiversity strategy will ensure there is commensurate ‘give and take’ between us and the environment.”

O’Sullivan says the scheme focuses on: protection, restoration, enhancement, and creation of biodiversity on shareholders properties; commitment to biodiversity on land owned by OWL; and stakeholder partnerships in biodiversity projects.

“Opuha’s catchment runs from the hills and mountains feeding water into Lake Opuha and then down the Opuha and Opihi Rivers to the sea,” O’Sullivan says. “This is already a continuous corridor of mixed biodiversity, from in-river eco-systems to the surrounding land owned by shareholders.

“The rivers have biodiversity values which we can help protect and improve, and many of our farmers’ properties have existing natural elements that can be enhanced to strengthen the biodiversity values of the whole corridor; there are opportunities to create new environmental features within the corridor as well.”

O’Sullivan says OWL is paying for the writing of biodiversity plans for its shareholders’ properties, with more than 95 plans completed to date covering approximately 35,000ha of land.

“Each year, OWL plans to budget for assisting shareholders to undertake documented actions in their biodiversity plans.”

“In future, biodiversity plans will be become a module of an ‘integrated farm plan’ covering all aspects of farming including employment, health and safety, animal welfare, and environmental considerations.”

O’Sullivan says OWL owns land around Lake Opuha and its scheme infrastructure that provides a fantastic opportunity for biodiversity enhancement.

“Native planting of Lake Opuha Island is the priority, followed by strategic areas around Lake Opuha and the downstream weir creating a biodiverse environment in a popular recreational area that everyone can access and enjoy.

“This is a long-term commitment by OWL and its shareholders,” O’Sullivan concludes, “we’re looking at a 20 to 30-year plan and for some projects it will take that long before environmental benefits are fully realised. It will also come at a cost, which is why we are paying for biodiversity farm plans and contributing toward ongoing implementation projects.”