Right here in clean, green New Zealand. That would be the Manawatu, which starts near Norsewood and flows through Palmerston North over to the sea at Foxton Beach.

The “one of the most polluted rivers in the world” characterization of the Manawatu comes not from some green group, but from the respected Cawthron Institute, which conducts extensive science-based environmental research (much of it water-related) for central and local government and corporate clients.

On Monday night, TVNZ broadcast this report on the Manawatu.

The news “hook” for the report was the signing of a pact amongst most of the stakeholders with responsibility for cleaning up the Manawatu. I say “most” because backing out at the last moment was Federated Farmers, whose spokesman railed against the “emotional nonsense” surrounding the river.

It’s hard to imagine an interest group more out of touch with reality on environmental matters than Federated Farmers … as Farmers Weekly points out frequently. Maybe so out of touch that sooner or later even our own Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor, long a Federated Farmers stalwart, might give up on them.

Said Councillor McGregor back in September 2007, when BayBuzz complained about the state of the Tukituki:

“Since 1953 a section of the Tukituki midway between the Tamumu and Patangata bridges has been my playground. While memory can be a fallible measure I can say that the river in my experience is far cleaner today than it was in my childhood and youth – when raw sewage from Waipukurau and Waipawa was emptied untreated into the rivers upstream. In the summer in those days the river was chocked with slime.”

Fortunately for the river, the public’s expectations and environmental standards have both risen in the past 57 years, and Councillors have been pulled along in the process … some more reluctantly than others.

The problems of the Manawatu — farm run-off (much of it dairying) and discharge of “treated” municipal sewage into the river — are the same problems faced by our own Tukituki.

After public outcry, the Regional Council and the CHB Council are moving slowly — but hopefully surely — to get rid of the municipal sewage discharge into the Tuki from Waipawa and Waipukarau. But the huge problem of farm run-off will remain.

And if the plan for water harvesting — to enable more intensive irrigated farming — is implemented in CHB, the run-off problem could worsen, along with other adverse environmental effects.

As a member of the Regional Council-appointed stakeholders group monitoring the feasibility investigation of the proposed water harvesting plan, I plan to ask the toughest questions I can about the environmental impacts of this scheme on the Tukituki and the potential for mitigating them. Yes, the scheme deserves consideration. But if the answers don’t hold water, you’ll hear about it from BayBuzz.

The HB Environmental Water Group, BayBuzz, a flotilla of fishermen and other friends of the Tuki have worked hard for several years to force some turnaround in attitude at the Regional Council on cleaning up the river … we don’t intend to relax now, let alone reverse direction.

Tom Belford

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. Tom,

    This is just crap. I have worked in Thailand, Indonesia, Russia and now in Kosovo, if you want to see a dirty river go to any of those countries. Having farmed for a number of years, I realize how important water is to the life blood of not only, but to all of us.

    There is a lot of damage done by these sorts of articles when people read this on the net.

    In fact go onto stuff and the NZ Herald and see how negative the articles are. Not a good look from a marketing NZ. Enjoy reading you articles, good luck for your bid at the local body elections. gm

  2. It is not telling it how it is and selling NZ tourism and primary goods on the Clean Green myth that has made the populace complacent and allowed the situation to get to where it is. They need wake up calls.

    The Thailand comparison is akin to those of death and terminal disease. One has happened and the other is well down the road to doing so.

  3. i agree, it is a nonsense statement – but that doesn't mean it's not polluted. probably you could safely say "the most polluted major river in NZ" without fear of contradiction.

  4. Tom, I've lost count of the number of times that you've quoted that statement. You're like a cracked record. Why shouldn't it be better than when the ablutions of over 4,000 people people went straight into the river?

    Obviously you want to give the impresion that I don't care about the state of the Tukituki. Well I'll put my committment to its wellbeing against yours any day. I am sending by direct post to you a picture taken from the front lawn of the property I farmed alongside the river (now mostly sold) dating from when I was at school, and a contemporary one. You may post them so that readers can make their own judgements as to how this change to the landscape will affect the river. That's four decades of work and I'm proud of it.

    Further, I have not been a member of Federated Farmers for 15 years and have been publicly critical of the leadership in respect to the environment (but not of H B leaders).

    Since you started your blog you have targeted councilors Scott, von Dadelszen, Rose and McGregor with your criticism and mockery. At least now that there's an election underway you should seek avoid such misrepresenations.

    Ewan McGregor

  5. Did I miss something? It wasn't Tom who

    said the Manawatu was one of the most

    polluted rivers in the world, it was

    identified as such from within and

    outside of NZ.

    It is poor farming practices, milk and

    meat processing from this and by

    substandard treatment of human and

    industrial wastewaters.

    Most of those alluded to by responders have

    a more visible pollution content.

  6. From today's DomPost: "…research from the Cawthron Institute showed that, under a system measuring oxygen changes in water, the river was the unhealthiest among 300 across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand."

    And to Ewan … planting trees is indeed commendable, but not a substitute for championing sound policies as a Councillor. Glad to hear you've cut the cord with FF.

  7. whichever way you look at it, the water quality in the bay is on the slide. Even the Mohaka has a dirty smell to it over the past couple of years. I was fishing up at Pakatutu bridge two Friday's ago & was quite saddened to experience what was a roaring wild clean mountain river until very recently having a heavy scent that reminded me of fishing lowland English coarse fish rivers as a boy. Having to take a plastic drink bottle to sip from instead of drinking straight from the stream is a marked backward step.

  8. Dirty Rivers – protect the Rivers or lose them .

    I fully agree with Steve's comments about the dirty smell on the Mohaka

    If you sell the Country and produce as ' Good and Green ' one has step up the mark , and not allow such Rivers such as the Mohaka and Tuki Tuki because polluted drainage channels for the Dairy Industry.

    There's simple solution don't collect the milk from the polluters , or reduce the pay out , this will soon bring them in line

    Well done Tom for raising this blog

  9. Good too see you back in the country Ian.

    Hope you have read HBRC response to our joint submission on the degrading of the Tuki.

    As see Cr MaGregor has shifted from stating in a response to an earlier BB posting he had never seen the Tuki looking better and it was full of fish to one of being accused of not caring about 'the state' of the river in response to this posting.

    Staff and most members accept there is urgent work to do to turn the avoidable degrading round and that this wont be overnight. Likewise the Mohaka. You cant win them all.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *