Rotting carcass revives river access row

SEAMUS BOYER - WAIRARAPA
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013
Grant Muir

Grant Muir beside the Pahaoa River

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The discovery of a dead calf floating in a river has rekindled a long-standing stoush over stock access to a Wairarapa waterway.

Neighbour Grant Muir photographed the bloated beast in the Pahaoa River, southeast of Martinborough, after it was spotted by a passer-by on Tuesday.

Other images recorded earlier last month show cattle wandering along the nearby river bank.

The farm owners say the Pahaoa River is the only water source for cattle grazing in the area and that the calf was removed as soon as they were made aware of it.

But Mr Muir - backed by a Green Party MP - says the photographs clearly highlight the problem of stock accessing waterways.

Yesterday he said he was shocked by the discovery of the calf, which was visible from the road.

"The animal should have been noticed by whoever was managing the stock. And I would guess that it had been in the water approximately five days by looking at the decomposition."

For years, cattle from a number of nearby stations had wandered the river banks, sometimes for several kilometres, he said. "The river's just full of cattle shit and algae."

Mr Muir has fought for six years to keep stock out of the Pahaoa River, with his work at the heart of a documentary entitled River Dog.

He identified the owners of the dead calf - Kaikuri Station - by its ear-marking.

Mical Treadwell, lawyer for the Pharazyn Charitable Trust, which owns the station, said the farm manager learned of the dead animal only on Wednesday night.

The calf was removed by tractor yesterday and buried. "We can only think that . . . it's fallen, otherwise we don't know the cause," Mr Treadwell said.

He acknowledged an ongoing "tiff" with Mr Muir, who had also had dealings with other farmers in the area.

But, Mr Treadwell said, the river was the "only source of water" for that particular herd of cows.

"At the moment it's dry as hell, so the cattle would gravitate to the river. It's a traditional way of farming that animals do drink from the river but if there is damage, then that's not acceptable."

Mr Treadwell denied any wider issue of water contamination, saying the farm manager was committed to good environmental practice.

Green MP Eugenie Sage said the images showed current regulations were not working. "It's yet another example of why we need a national standard to keep stock out of streams, because councils aren't doing enough."

Greater Wellington regional council environment manager Nigel Corry said council officers had responded "numerous times over the past few years" to Mr Muir's complaints about stock in the river.

"When Mr Muir informs us of stock in the Pahaoa, we go and investigate."

It was not illegal and not uncommon for stock to access water, and councils had to be able to legally prove animals were having an adverse effect on the environment to be able to remove them, he said.

Fewer stock were accessing the river than previously, with the Pahaoa River "not the best nor the worst" in terms of water quality.

Mr Muir should perhaps have phoned the council's pollution hotline, Mr Corry said, as it was alerted to the incident only when contacted by The Dominion Post.

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- The Dominion Post

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