There was a big turnout at a meeting on Sunday to discuss a new way of managing the Waipoua River. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

The call went out on Sunday to the people of Masterton to help manage the Waipoua River and it was heeded.

More than 100 people came to Lakeview School for a public meeting where a new democratic way of managing rivers was explained.

Adrienne Staples, the Wairarapa representative on the Greater Wellington Regional Council, said it was the third time GWRC had tried this “different way of working”.

“I urge you to please buy into this process,” she said.

If people did there would be no need to “poke sticks” at the end of the process.

The Waipoua Community Catchment Group is being facilitated by John Boon of Greytown with Masterton resident Andrew Donald as the spokesman.

Boon told the Times-Age the earlier Waiohine Action Group for the Waiohine River was born out of a crisis with a community of about 2000 people facing a $10 million cost for flood management deciding to take the process off GWRC and do it themselves.

The idea was to draw on the wisdom and knowledge of the community and build a “living plan” for the river.

The group had working days and wrote everything up on a white board as it worked toward a consensus. Nothing was written down in minutes as with a traditional meeting.

A picture was taken of the white board and it was put on Facebook where everyone in the community could question and challenge it.

He said it was a citizen-led democratic process.

“I don’t think it has been done anywhere else apart from in Wairarapa.”

The meeting on Sunday was a good starting point for the Waipoua Group, he said.

Staples said GWRC was changing the way it engaged with the community and the Waipoua Group was the third time a community-led process was to be used in managing a river.

Masterton Deputy Mayor Graham McClymont said he had spent four years dishing up everything that could be found to GWRC, including sometimes their own work, so locals could have input into managing the Waipoua River.

He said the river had been highly modified in the urban reaches and functioned like a storm water channel through the town.

It had to be acknowledged there were rivers on three sides in Masterton and it could flood, McClymont said.

He said managing a river was essentially about testing an appetite for risk and it had to be considered if there was an overflow or breakout event was there money to manage it.

“I’m really pleased so many people have turned up to support this,” he said.

“It’s extremely important we own this as a community.”

Donald said as well as those who attended there were more than 35 apologies from people who were interested and could not be there.

It was possible that millions of dollars could be saved on river management by using ideas from the community.

“The community needed their voice,” he said.