Hawke’s Bay will become the first province in the country to “bio-purge” a polluted river, after Hawke’s Bay Regional Council voted yesterday to introduce didymo (pictured) into the Tukituki River.

The landmark move sparked instant praise from environmental group Baywatch, who called it “21st Century sustainable thinking”, while dubbing new chairman Rex McIntyre the “alga male”.

Buoyed by his council’s support, Mr McIntyre said didymo’s “bacteria eating” properties would reinvigorate the befouled Tukituki, which, he quipped, “had moved more motions than a five-term councillor”.

“As chairman I’m focussed on bringing the river’s contaminant levels in line with acceptable standards,” McIntyre says.

BayBuzz understand the river’s main toxic contributories are “antiquated” upstream oxidation ponds in Otane and Waipukurau – both outdated, both feeling the pinch of a sewerage volume that far exceeds design.

Regional council’s biosecurity manager, Campbell Leckie, said didymo was “our most maligned alga”, and claims its inherent sanitising properties have thus far been ignored. “Our initiative is based on the same science as that of existing oxidation ponds,” Mr Leckie said. “A functioning pond relies on naturally occurring algae to oxidise organic compounds. Didymo – like other algae – aerobically digests sewerage in the water. It’s the perfect solution for the beleaguered river, which, despite what my colleagues upstairs have said, has been a flowing petri dish for some time.”

Mr McIntyre said council will introduce the alga in an official ceremony on Friday, with local Tukituki MP Craig Foss set to throw the first handful of “rock snot” off Red Bridge. “Didymo poses no human health risks. Our goal is to ensure Bay children get messy when they swim – not sick.”

Mark

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