Friends of the Maitai (FOM) has taken an active role as an environmental watchdog several times over the past 50 years, when issues with potential impact on the river have arisen. The original Friends of the Maitai existed from 1977 to 1984, formed to oppose the Nelson City Council’s plan to plant the Waahi Taakaro hillsides in pine trees. Instead FOM envisioned a river valley full of natives and recreational opportunities. Unfortunately, they lost that fight and disbanded when the High Court allowed the planting of pine trees to proceed. On the heels of that loss, the construction of the Maitai Dam in 1987 drew criticism from many residents due to its impact on river flows, but those concerns were allayed by the provision for a minimum flow level and no organised group formed to fight that battle. More recently, Nelson East residents rose up against logging trucks using Tory, Hardy and Milton Streets. They won some voluntary concessions from forestry companies, but logging trucks still go through the city on their way to the port.
Friends of the Maitai today
The latest incarnation of FOM came in 2014 after local residents got together with Nelson City Council staff to share some ideas for re-vegetation of the riverbank. Soon after this Council installed warning signs about toxic algae (cyanobacteria) and the residents’ group gathered more members and took up the title of Friends of the Maitai. Council launched a project called Project Maitai-Mahitahi and FOM took on the community aspect of this project, organising interest groups that include:
Planting and plant care – we have joined in Council planting days and held our own. The most significant area is the Groom Creek Wetland, where thousands of shrubs, trees and grasses have transformed a once desolate area.
River monitoring – a group regularly monitors a site in the Maitai Stream at another in Brook tributary. Data from this citizen science project feeds into monitoring undertaken by NIWA, Nelson City Council and Cawthron Institute. FOM gained a grant from Council in 2019 to install a continuous river monitor to improve the reliability of data.
Forestry – sediment from the harvesting of Pinus radiata has been identified by Cawthron as the main issue affecting water quality of the Maitai River. The forestry group works with the industry and with Council on improving practices, with a view to eventually retiring pine forest.
Communication – this group maintains a website, Facebook page and regular seasonal newsletters; as well making submissions to council and communicating with members and with media over any major issues.
Representatives from the interest groups gather every six weeks for a hub meeting when information is shared and activities are planned. Friends of the Maitai has no formal structure and welcomes interest from new members.
FOM promotes a collaborative responsibility for the health of our waterways and gives community members a gathering place to learn about the issues that face our river and work together to take positive action.
We welcome you to join any groups that match your interests or skills and we look forward to sharing ideas, actions, creativity, fun and friendship.
Project Maitai/Mahitahi was a four year project between Nelson City Council and community partners to improve the health of the Maitai River and all its tributaries including Brook Stream, York Stream, Sharland Creek, Groom Creek and Saltwater Creek. The overarching aim of Project Maitai/Mahitahi was to create a river that is safe to swim in and take kai from, and that everyone can enjoy and feel proud of.
A wonderful story map of Project Mahitahi has been created, this combines maps, narrative text, images and videos. For the Project Mahitahi Story Map click here
Submissions to the Council
The Friends of the Maitai make submissions to the Council. Below are submissions that have been made:
Submission: Nelson Long Term Plan 2015 – 2025
An Open letter to the Works and Infrastructure Committee: Maitai Walkway Submission 5 May
Submission: FoM submission on National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry other submissions of interest
By Joe Hay Joe Hay NES-PF submission points
By Forest and Bird Forest and Bird Submission on proposed NES PF
History of the Friends of the Maitai
In 1977 a group formed called the Freinds of the Maitai FOMT, the group wished to provide pressure to influence the Council to stop the planting of forestry on Maitai Recreational Reserve Lands. The plans to operate commercial forests in this recreational land had not been well known. The FOMT questioned the legality of this usage. The NCC took a Bill to parliament resulting in the Nelson City Forestry Empowering Act, a compromise that satisfied no one. In November 1978 the council voted to continue the plantings. Source: The Community Archive.