In response to public uproar over a year ago regarding the shabby state of the Tukituki, the Regional Council commissioned an independent review of its water quality monitoring approach and data, taking into account criticisms of same by the Hawke’s Bay Environmental Water Group (HBEWG), led by Bill Dodds, David Renouf, John Scott and Colin Crombie.

The review was conducted by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA), and its report was recently received by the Council. As BayBuzz posted previously, the report was too hot for the Council to handle in one sitting, So, Council’s response is being sorted out behind closed doors so that Councillors need not embarrass themselves a second time when the matter is next on the public agenda.

Now the entire report has been released to the public.

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 Tuki situation.

The report recommends additional monitoring sites and a change to compliance monitoring methodology below the CHB sewage oxidation ponds, both key objectives of HBEWG and both aimed at addressing potential public health risks downstream of the ponds. The report also recommended better collection and utilization of both land use data (e.g., regarding intensification of farming and dairying in the catchment) and water extraction data (to determine what amounts of water are actually being withdrawn from the river by consent holders), in both cases to permit better assessment of impacts on water quality and required water management policies and practices.

The report noted evidence of increasing nutrient concentrations at some sites contrary to public policy objectives, as well as evidence that “nutrients and other contaminants adversely affect water quality and pose a threat to aquatic ecosystems or contact recreation during summer low flows …”

In other words, neither HBEWG nor long-time landowners along the lower reaches of the Tuki nor long-time recreational users of the Tuki are delusional … the river quality stinks and needs fixin!

But don’t take my word for it. You can download the report or read it yourself here.

To complete the review process, HBEWG is to be given an opportunity to discuss the recommendations contained in the report with NIWA and the HBRC.

The days are gone when HBEWG and its complaints about water quality and management can be tossed aside by the Regional Council.

Tom Belford

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