Natural solution to a man-made problem

Kerry Reilly with his prestigious Caernarfon Award, which recognised his low-cost, low-maintenance sustainable water treatment option for the runoff from Baldwin’s Quarry, Meremere. Photo supplied.

When Kerry Reilly bought some land to open a commercial aggregate quarry at Meremere 20 years ago, he encountered a massive man-made problem.

How could he filter the quarry’s run-off, so when it drained into the surrounding 7000 hectares of the Whangamarino Wetland, a Ramsar site, it would be crystal clear?

Fast-forward to today and the Waikato quarry manager has won a prestigious international award for his low-cost, low-maintenance sustainable water treatment option for the runoff from Baldwin’s Quarry, Meremere, which is now owned by Winstone Aggregates.

Kerry was bestowed the award at the recent Institute of Quarrying New Zealand Inc’s AGM, at the QuarryNZ 2019 Conference.

In conjunction with local dairy farmer Peter Buckley, whose land adjoined the quarry, Kerry put into action a plan he’d been considering since 2000 – a 4ha wetland to act as a buffer and natural filtration for the quarry runoff.

The $500,000 project was a win-win for all concerned and a commitment to protecting the precious Whangamarino Wetland. Discharge from the farm is now naturally dispersed by the wetland – and the discharge from the quarry is not polluting the environment.

Kerry says work on the project commenced in 2005, but resource consent for the project was retrospectively approved by Waikato Regional Council in May 2008. Clearing the introduced willow trees from the area took several years.

The Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust sponsored the supply and planting of more than 15,000 native trees and shrubs to beautify and enrich the whole development.

And Kerry himself grew and planted hundreds of cabbage trees and flaxes from seeds of existing plants in the Whangamarino Wetland. He says more than 32,000 native trees and shrubs were planted in total.

“It was encouraging to have the confidence of our neighbours, the Waikato District Council and Environment Waikato for issuing the necessary consents to allow this project to proceed,” says Kerry.

The five-pond system has a central island, which provides a viewing area for the public to observe the now-flourishing populations of ducks, swans, fish, frogs and birds. Stopbanks with access roading surround the wetland, with a depressed area for emergency overflow.

The multiple ponds have a 1250m-long water path flow, enabling greater pond retention times and promoting filtration of microscopic fines through the vegetated wetland.

“I’m confident that this will help lead the way for other industries and farmers to co-operate and demonstrate that we can all work together to create a cleaner NZ,” says Kerry.


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