Since late 2009 the Regional Council has been working with a stakeholders group to development an ecologically sound approach to land management around the Taharua and upper Mohaka catchment. In bureacrat-speak, the objective is to secure: “Stakeholder agreement of provisional catchment management objectives and nutrient targets, informed by robust science and the full range of community values.”

We lay people can only hope that means: Put an end to dairy farmers in the Taharua catchment polluting our rivers!

Alongside this engagement process, a program of scientific monitoring and analysis is taking place. This work shows that nutrient levels have indeed been rising in both surface and groundwater. Here are some observations from a report to be delivered Wednesday to the Environmental Management Committee of the Regional Council:

Shallow groundwater has elevated levels of nitrate (median 8.3 mg/l, range 4 mg/l to 12 mg/l).

Deep groundwater nitrate ranges from <0.002 mg/l to 1.9 mg/l and is not considered elevated.

The two shallow bores closest to the Mohaka confluence show increasing nitrate concentrations with time (increasing trend). Surface water quality of the Taharua River continues to increase in nitrate, with concentrations at the central Twin Culverts site approaching 4 mg/l. The lower site at Poronui station, although continuing to increase, is less than 2 mg/l. Typical nitrate levels in upper river sites are less than 0.1 mg/l.

The report continues:

Food value and water clarity is optimal for trout upstream of the Taharua confluence.

Food value and water clarity is less than optimal for trout downstream of the Taharua confluence resulting in smaller trout. This supports the anecdotal evidence Council has received of a reduced fishery within the Taharua River and in the Mohaka downstream of the confluence with the Taharua.

Lesson #1: Believe the fishermen. The same lesson applies to the Tukituki.

Then the report says:

Relationships with catchment landowners and farm managers are constructive, despite the instability of recent receiverships and ownership/personnel changes. New owners are actively involved in the TSG [Ed: stakeholders group], however one of the landowners has lodged a pre- application that would seem to go against good practice and existing consent requirements.

Lesson #2: No matter what constructive engagement or “education” is offered, some farmers just don’t (won’t) get it. Hopefully the Regional Council will ultimately set the bar at the most ecologically-protective level, not at some “most acceptable to the most people” lowest common denominator level.

Finally, the report says:

A summary of current understanding of the Taharua problem and the evolution in understanding over the past 10 years is being finalised.

Ten years! To rouse the Council to action on the Taharua, it took Iain Maxwell (then) of Fish & Game to shoot underwater video of the polluted Taharua, which BayBuzz published online in August 2009 (see here), supported by Kathy Webb then writing in the Dominion Post (see here), and constant agitation by Councillor Liz Remmerswaal (here, for example). Fishermen had been complaining for years. Even MPs Tremain and Foss evidenced concern before the Regional Council, as BayBuzz reported here way back in  December 2007.

Who says the Regional Council has been slow off the mark on this one?!

Tom Belford

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3 Comments

  1. There is little evidence that the regional council has been proactive in safeguarding the environment within the Hawke's bay in any area. Air pollution is actively advocated for (see the extension to the wood burner laws), the rivers are drained and polluted by farmers and the list goes on.

    Having just read a global evaluation of the most liveable cities worldwide, the best NZ city was Auckland which rates at 20th. Interestingly all the top cities were European and were cited as being leaders in sustainable and ecological housing, transport, arts, broadband and recreational initiatives. Unfortunately our regional council just do not see that they need to be active guardians of the environment and are looking for the quick buck every time.

    This short term thinking guarantees that many in Hawke's Bay will soon wake up to the fact that it really isn't that nice a place to live in terms of quality of life measures, and the great migration from New Zealand will increase dramatically.

    For the record Minich was rated #1 Most Liveable city this year and running against the tide in German cities posted a population increase of nearly 5%. Hawke's Bay is predicting a decrease or at best static population which is no surprise when you consider the stance taken by our regional council.

  2. No surprises with the inevitable. I know the Taharau well having fished it regulary in the decade after arriving in 1973 to do so.

    It is a fragile catchment not suitable for intensive farming of any sort.

    How was an intensive dairying consent granted on a fragile upper catchment of a world renowned river with a Herritage order?

    Likewise similar consents for intensive dairing on the upper Tuki over the sensitive Ruataniwha aquifer recharge area without the science data to support the multi consents.

    Both rivers were consistantly in the top 10 free access fisheries which drew me to NZ 37 years ago. It should be subjected to inquiry.

  3. Darn, Shaun..and here i was thinking about returning to the Bay to live and you're telling me that where I live, Auckland , is the berries…yep, well i kinda knew that but thanks for the heads up..as for the Bay…i sometime wonder whether it really wants to progress or is perhaps just happy being a slo-mo provincial part of our great country, without all the spin?

    BTW..where's this Minich place you refer to above as being the number one place in the world to live?

    don't know that one….

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