Te Oranga o te Awa, the Manawatū River Improvement Festival, returned on Saturday.
From planting over two million plants to fencing off 800 kilometres, the state of the Manawatū River is on the mend.
The Manawatū River Improvement Festival, which honours the river and its catchment, took place on Saturday as crowds gathered beside the Fitzherbert Bridge in Palmerston North.
The festival, which started last year, is hosted by the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum – a group made up of iwi, local government, farming representatives and environmental leaders.
Chairman Richard Thompson said the forum was created in 2010 amid growing concerns about the river’s declining health.
“They all got together and said: ‘We need to do something about it. We need to take some responsibility’.”
The aim was to restore the mana of the river and how people felt about it. “This festival is a key part of that,” he said.
It has since become a recreational hub, with walking tracks attracting dog owners, cyclists and runners. There are also a growing number of swimmers.
Manawatū District Council had led the charge by reducing waste discharge to the Ōroua River, a nearby catchment, Thompson said.
Horizons Regional Council chairwoman Rachel Keedwell said the river shaped the region and reflected its people.
Over the past decade, six wastewater plants had been upgraded and 57 projects had been funded by community grants.
“For a long time, Palmerston North didn’t have a great connection to its river.”
However, some parts of the river were still in decline.
“We can’t sit back. We have still got a long way to restore our awa back to full health.”
The festival spanned across three hours, involving several local musicians and bands performing on a make-shift tent.
There were several food trucks and and an information tent where people could see what was being done to improve the river.