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.