Councillor Ewan McGregor doesn’t like the fact that BayBuzz keeps knocking the Regional Council for the lousy state of the Tukituki. Over the past eighteen months or so, sometimes he’s argued that the Tuki is not miserably polluted at all (or no more so than his boyhood days), and at other times he’s argued that the Regional Council can’t be expected to move any faster on clean-up.

Which leads to the question, how long should it take the Council to clean up a river that apparently isn’t polluted in the first place?!

Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that the only reason anything (i.e., a lot of planning for more research and monitoring and, rumour has it, some financial help for CHB to deal with its poop problem) is being done by the Regional Council is because a watchdog group, the Hawke’s Bay Environmental Water Group (HBEWG), persisted in challenging the Council’s data, methodology and attitude, despite being denigrated by certain Councillors and staff over an extended period. But for the HBEWG, the Council would still have its collective thumb you know where.

Because Councillor McGregor is such a loyal BayBuzz reader, however, I’m publishing his full complaint below. I must say that I think Councillor McGregor would be wiser not to climb farther out on this limb over the Tukituki, lest it crack and drop him in, and the river sweep him away.

From Councillor McGregor:

Another attack on the Tukituki river, and the Regional Council’s management of it Tom.

It’s easy to criticise but how about answering some questions?

1. I’ve already asked this. If you’ve answered it then I’ve missed it. What has the R C not done in the last 12 months that it should have done but hasn’t to remove the slime in the lower reaches? You’ve indicated that the RC is to blame for this.
2. Why is there far less slime in the middle reaches currently than the lower reaches. (See pic I took yesterday at shag Rock.)
3. You say “The days are gone when HBEWG and its complaints about water quality and management can be tossed aside by the Regional Council.” When has the RC “tossed aside” complaints about the TT?
4. You diminish the reports criticisms of the HBEWG with this comment; While not agreeing with all of HBEWG’s statements and suggestions, there can be no doubt that the review confirms the main elements of public concern about the Tukituki situation. I challenge your impression that the report is so one sided and that the RC is found so negligent. Yes we can do better and we are striving to do so, but the BayBuzz faithful will not gain this impression. The report also says “I believe that some of their [HBEWG] statements are incorrect and I disagree with some of their suggestions. In my opinion the HDEWG does not have a ‘science programme’ which can be compared with that of the Council, There are a few glaring mistakes in the commentary supplied which indicate that the technical commentary of the HBEWG is low in some areas.” And later “I urge the HBEWG to refrain from technical topics outside their level of competency and rather focus on topics problems and issues….” Of course this can be read on BayBuzz. But it’s a long report. The Conclusion is a good reference.
5. I have said publically that the HBEWG has given the RC a hurry up, and good on it. There’s a name for it – democracy.
6. “The report was too hot for the RC to handle” you say In fact the Chairman insisted that the recommendation from staff to receive the report was not good enough and insisted it be debated. While I had read the report at the time of the meeting other councillors hadn’t so rightly or wrongly it is being held over to the next meeting.
7. Yes, the TT needs improving, but it doesn’t “stink’ as you say, and neither does the report say it does.
8. The RC is working mightily to improve this river, some of it necessarily behind the scenes. If you think that it can happen overnight you are dreaming. Putting the boot into the Council over the River is becoming tiresome – and now entirely unproductive.

I would appreciate it if you can post this in a prominent place.

Ewan McGregor
Regional councillor – and life-long lover of the beautiful Tukituki River. (If my comments can be interpreted as indifference to the River’s wellbeing then I am quite happy for my record of hands-on and promotional landcare in the River’s catchment to be put up against the critics.)

I’m happy to let the report speak for itself. Here it is again.

But in addition, these points:

1. The HBRC could take a precautionary approach and stop awarding water takes from the Tuki while it sorts out its data deficiencies. And months ago, it could have already initiated some of the mitigating steps to curb farm run-off — as recommended by staff and urged by the Chairman — that the Council still couldn’t bring itself to endorse at its last meeting. That’s the difference between “planning” and “action.”

2. Challenge the analysis of the HBEWG all you like, Ewan, but the bottomline is that the report recommends action on the two key “science” issues the group raised all along … how the water was being tested below the CHB sewage system discharges and the sufficiency and location of monitoring sites.

3. Over the hot months, the river did literally stink … any number of landowners along the lower reaches will testify to that. And figuratively, it still does.

4. “Putting the boot” to the Regional Council is becoming “tiresome” and “entirely unproductive” says Councillor McGregor. But as he says elsewhere in his message, there’s a name for it — it’s called “democracy.” Anyway, I think of it more as putting Councillors under the magnifying glass, and I do hope it’s getting hotter and hotter under there.

Tom Belford

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  1. Dear Tom and Ewan

    In January our Pony club held a camp at Patangata Bridge and had fun crossing the river on ponies. The water was deep enough to swim the ponies and we all cooled off on the hot days. However not far from there huge irrigation pipes were being joined together to irrigate farmland. It depressed me to think about how much water could be pumped through those enormous pipes in an hour and made me realise why the river looks so empty and slimy by the time it reaches the red bridge (Waimarama Rd). Our favourite swimming holes were too shallow to swim in this summer and even now, in May, the river is so low. The Regional Council is directly responsible for how much water is taken out of the upper reaches of the river.

  2. Ewan McGregor do you ever swim or drink out of the river which no doubt you did as a kid?

    Fact is you have been on Council long enough to have done something before people started puting pressure on the HBRC.

    But at least you do engage, something a lot of our L.A. reps only do everytime they wan to get elected.

    However I must say since you have come out as an ardent National party supporter I am having trouble believing your oft made claim/s that you are an environmentalist. That involves more than planting trees.

  3. 1981 our family bought a property on River Rd Havelock North which is adjacent to Riverlands Park.

    The attractions to purchase the property was the property itself and its close proximity to such a beautiful river.

    Our 3 children were in their early teens and the river was a favourite swimming and picnic spot for our and many other families.

    Over the years the river has in my opinion visibly deteriorated with the ever increasing build up of summer slime which over recent years been exacerbated by the regular low flow levels of the river.

    The one positive has been the Regional Councils work at Riverlands park where the errection of an iron barrier fence has dramaticaly reduced the number of cars being dumped and burnt after prolonged racing around the grassed area. The Rotary pathway which starts opposite our bottom boundary has brought a whole new dimension to the area in terms of users. The mullet heads of all ages who delighted in driving their 4×4's up and down the stop bank tearing up the grassed areas have virtually disappeared being replaced by cyclists who are using the pathway in ever increasing numbers.

    The next step is the river and what individuals can in no matter how small a way do improve the quality of water getting into the river.

    A suggestion would be that every drain, gully, winter running water courses be identified [this may have already been done] residents who's property these water courses run through be given encouragement on how they could plant these areas with suitable plants that will slow run off and filter the water.

    River Rd is quite steep during the winter large volumes of water run into the road drain and straight into the Tuki Tuki.

    Every yr the road drains which are filled with water cress a proven filter are sprayed with herbicide resulting in a scorched earth appearance, which does nothing for the water quality.

    There are a lot of people out there who would be more than willing to help what is required now is a coordinated plan that people can refer to and possibly use.

    Our property has such a water course which over the last 8 yrs I have been planting and not herbicide spraying the water course. I am very pleased with the result to some it may look untidy but the increasing number of resident frogs seem very happy.

    David Cranwell

  4. I think one of the problems with debate over the tukituki is that the character of the river changes below Patangata .From Tamumu to Patangata the river falls some 60 feet in four miles and is re charged by springs at Shag Rock .There fore the river is generally faster ,clearer and less weedy than it becomes further down

    Testament to this is the fact that dozens of people swim in the river at patangata on a hot summers day and did so this last summer even though after three years of drought the river dropped very fast very quickly once the rains failed.

    Below Patangata the river profile flattens out and there is no recharge at all from springs or permanent water courses .The river gets slower and hotter and evaporates so the weed grows

    prolifically and water quality generaly deteriorates

    .Patangata is 330 feet above seal level and it is about forty miles from there to the sea

    There is no doubt that water extraction up stream has an effect but I think if the concerned citizens drove up the river to the middle reaches during the summer they might modify their views a little

    The dozens of swimmers at Shag Rock , Patangata and Tamumu over the summer months indicate that the river is not quite the open sewer some believe or alternatively ,that those of us upstream of the gorge who swim regularly are crazy fools who dont know what we are doing . Since I am now a regional councillor the latter may well be the correct summation

    I leave the reader to judge


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