Maori-Pakeha neighbours win NZ Rivers Award for restoring the Waitao

A member of group that has just won the New Zealand Rivers Award for its work restoring the Waitao River in the Bay of Plenty believes clean, green New Zealand could be a reality if more Maori and Pakeha worked together.

A bunch of neighbours have joined together to plant more than 20,000 native trees along the banks of the river. Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp reported the Waitao-Kaiate Care Group has planted more than 20,000 native trees along the banks of the river and meet every two weeks to pot more plants.

And thanks to the power of persuasion by the group, most farmers are no longer grazing their stock near the river.

At just 12 kilometres long, the Waitao isn't New Zealand's biggest river, but it means a lot to those who live near it.

"It's a part of our lineage, our whakapapa and it's our foodbasket," said Hinenui Cooper of Kaitiaki.

At Tahuwhakatiki Marae, Ms Cooper has been testing the water for the last 10 years and said she's doing it for the next generation.

Over time, phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the water have dropped, water quality has improved and some species of fish have returned.

Ms Cooper said they now get enough fish to feed hundreds of people at the marae, "and that's telling you something" about the river's improvement.

According to the Environment Ministry, 62 per cent of New Zealand rivers aren't safe to swim in, let alone drink from or eat fish from.

But Ms Cooper reckons if more Maori and Pakeha could work together, as they have on the Waitao, clean, green New Zealand could be a reality.

"What do we have if we can't enjoy our waterways? Not a heck of a lot. Swimming pools? No thank you. Fish markets? No thank you!" 

The campaign is not yet won, as children with scratches who swim in the Waitao still risk coming out with sores, and the iconic Kaiate Falls at the head of the river remain closed to swimmers.

Mental health advocates praising work of Bentley the dog in helping Whanganui's vulnerable children

Mental health advocates in Whanganui are trying a new way to work with vulnerable children and young people.

It had four legs, and some seriously fuzzy fur.

He's only been working for six months, but so far, Bentley's had a huge impact.

Bentley the dog is the latest addition to Whanganui's child and adolescent mental health service.

"The young people that come here usually have moderate to severe mental health issues, usually they're the top end, they're the children that need the support," clinical nurse manager Janice told Seven Sharp.

Some of the young clients have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect, and the comfort of Bentley helps some of the children open up and talk to him, even if they won't talk to adults.

"We were working with a very vulnerable child, lots of agencies involved, could not get this kid to engage, could not get this kid to talk, could not get this kid to co-operate," Anita Darrah, Bentley's fur mum and a clinical psychologist, said.

"I was asked to do some assessment and cognitive testing on this child, and the entire cognitive test was carried out through Bentley."

Bentley has his own identification and calendar, and also an area to rest so he doesn't get too tired.

"Bentley kind of gives them that little bit of confidence, straight away they get to experience mastery and success, I think that's really important." Source: Seven Sharp


One dead as car catches fire in Opotiki crash

One person has died following a two-car car crash in Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty in which one car burst into flames.

The crash happened near the pipi beds on Waiotahi Beach Road at about 8.20pm. 

The crash happened on Waiotahi Beach Road, Opotiki. Source: Google Maps

Police say one injured person managed to get out of one car, while the other car caught on fire.

The person who died is believed to have been in the car that caught fire. 

Police, fire and ambulance were in attendance and Waiotahi Beach Road was closed.