The Karamū stream, our Karamū, is one of the most polluted waterways in Hawke’s Bay. That is an absolute shocker. That is simply not acceptable. 

Will you help us Rescue the Karamū? With your help it can once again be a stream for kids to play in and on.

A couple of months ago, about 30 tyres were pulled from the Karamū near Te Mata Mangateretere Road! 30 tyres! What sort of loser dumps tyres into a stream? The Herehere stream, that feeds the Karamū has a faecal count which is off the charts. Karamū Stream itself receives all of Hastings contaminant-laden stormwater, including numerous heavy metals, every time it rains. And this is the stream that wanders past our homes, maraes, schools and parks as it flows across the plains. 

There have been far too many warning signs and reports that have not been fully followed through. Our natural surroundings have seen too little investment for too long. The Regional Council’s 2013 and 2018 report on the State of the Environment on stream water quality found that the most polluted waterways in Hawke’s Bay are the Karamū and Ahuriri areas. It is now 2021, much of the Karamū is not safe for children to play in let alone swim in or kayak down. 

Way upstream the water is pretty good, but by the time water from the Karamū Stream reaches Clive bridge – where waka ama, kayaking, rowing, jet-skiing, picnicking and other recreation takes place – it is unsuitable for swimming. This simply isn’t good enough. Somewhere between the hills and Clive, various crap is being put into, or draining into the Karamū.

The stream itself appears small as it winds through Havelock and out to Clive, but the catchment is surprisingly large. The land that drains into the Karamū covers over 490 square kilometres and includes the Poukawa Basin, the Kohinurakau, Kaokaoroa and Raukawa ranges and a large part of the Heretaunga Plains, including the lowland tributaries feeding to Pakipaki, such as the Paritua, Karewarewa and Awanui streams.

Back in 2004, the Regional Council delivered an almost 400-page report focused on the state of the Karamū Stream including numerous recommendations for enhancement.

Over the years, many of those recommendations have been put in place relating to drainage and flood control, ecosystem improvement and recreation. We’ve seen stop bank and channel works, drainage and pumping improvements, wetland creation, the prevention of stock access, tangles of willows cleared, stream sides planted, cycle trails added and general improvements to public access. 

A lot has changed, there have been some great successes, but we need to lift our game. It is even more urgent in 2021 than described in the 2004, 2013 and 2018 reports! 

In our long term plan (the council’s budget for the coming ten years), we have proposed a new urban coordinator role specifically for the Karamū to encourage greater community engagement and to help to improve urban stormwater quality. This new role will support the existing Karamū enhancement programme tagged with $3.6 million over ten years.

Please, probably for the first time in your life, go to and make a submission. Note your support for the Karamū in the comments section, as well as your various preferences in the survey. This will just take a few minutes but can make a massive and positive difference. Together we can reverse our poor track record.

At virtually every Regional Council meeting since I was elected to HBRC I have raised awareness of the state of the Karamū and the urgent need to rescue it. I don’t care about who was to blame, but I care deeply that we get on with the job, focus, be accountable for our water quality, double down and begin the Karamū Rescue.

Photo: Tim Whittaker

Editor’s note: Back in 2018 BayBuzz published a major feature — Saving the Karamū –on the sorry state of the Karamū, the causes behind it, and efforts to improve the situation. Since then, a huge amount of community effort has gone into restoring this ecosystem, but Regional Councillor Foss is entirely correct, much more needs to be done. Implementing the TANK plan change would be a useful step!!]

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  1. We have been supporting the Karamu since forever, Lack of HBRC, HDC to control industry, farming, suburbia is the problem, if you don’t hold those accountable to the measure than who? I hold you for the state of our waters accountable. I say return to sender. Get over your selves you are the cause of the state of our waters. Ask yourselves ? what is my job and what am I paid for. To bring us to this state shows you have no purpose, no vision and no conviction. I am ashamed of HB.

  2. Our experience living on land with one bank bordering the Karamu stream is that the people contracted to do work are not guided wisely by those knowledgeable concerning nature and what works for it. Consequently the contractors do the job but nature is destroyed in the process. I am willing to talk to councillors involved ,for actual examples.

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