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The Manawatu River is highly polluted. This is largely due to runoff from surrounding dairy farms, but towns on the river’s edge also contribute to this pollution with untreated sewage and industrial waste.

The Manawatu River Estuary at Foxton Beach is an internationally recognised Ramsar site (a wetland of ecological significance, designated under the Ramsar Convention).

The estuary is home to 23 threatened bird, fish and plant species, including fairy terns, shore plover, longfin eel, giant kokopu, sea primrose and remuremu (half-star). The estuary also supports around 1% of the world's wrybill population.

In order to protect these species, as well as others living in the river, the Horowhenua branch has joined the Manawatu Leaders Accord, a forum which aims to promote awareness of the rivers significance; restore it to a state of health and ensure the water and surrounding land is used sustainably.

Included in the Manawatu Leaders Accord are local iwi, the Palmerston North City Council, Horizons Regional Council and Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

These groups have developed an action plan to restore the river, and meet every six months to give progress reports. Key actions required to clean up the Manawatu River are:

•    Reduce sediment runoff from erosion, roads and areas of major earthworks
•    Reduce nutrient and bacteria in the river from point source discharges
•    Reduce runoff from intensive land-uses such as dairy farming and horticulture
•    Prevent over-allocation of river water
•    Protect habitats for native birds and fish and enable movement between these areas. 
•    Reduce the impacts of flood control and drainage on the natural processes of the river

For more information see the Manawatu River Leaders Accord 2012 Summary of Progress Report.

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