Christchurch's vanishing streams worry residents
Several inner-city Christchurch streams have vanished, leaving dead eels and puddles of stagnant water in the middle of an affluent suburb.
Low water levels have afflicted many of Canterbury's waterways in recent months, which the regional council attributes to dry weather.
Critics are adamant that is not the case, and fear it may signal the beginning of the end for Christchurch's waterways.
The Waimairi and Wai-iti streams, which run through Fendalton and feed the Avon River, have dried up.
Both streams were once teeming with trout, crayfish and long-fin eels; Waimairi Stream was so pure residents reportedly drank from it.
Now they are completely empty, save for the discarded beer bottles, plastic bags and an occasional puddle of stagnant water, which attract swarms of mosquitos.
Stormwater run-offs occasionally bring water back, but it is grey, sludgy, and filled with rubbish.
Local man Peter Keller has walked past Waimairi stream regularly for 15 years, and said he had never seen it disappear before.
"This year it has just got lower and lower and lower... Now it's just completely stopped.
"It's never been like that, ever. Something is definitely wrong. Really wrong."
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About a kilometre away, Clyde Rd resident Kristina Pickford says the same about the Wai-iti stream, which runs through her property.
She has the support of more than 30 neighbours - some who had lived there for nearly 50 years, and had never seen it dry up completely - to push authorities for a solution.
"It's been consistently dry since November. Just metres from our place it's really, really silted up with stagnant water. There's thousands and thousands of mosquitos."
She was less concerned about the dead stream then what it signified for the future of the city's waterways.
"The fact that 75 per cent of the streams which feed the Avon are in this area... I am genuinely concerned about what the Avon River will be looking like in 10 years. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a trickle."
For advocacy group Fish and Game, the depletion of Canterbury's waterways was becoming more pronounced.
North Canterbury regional manager Rodd Cullinane had visited Waimairi Stream and found dead eels on the shingle.
"There's not a teaspoon of water in it," he said.
"We've seen dramatic drops in other rivers as well, like we've never seen before."
He blamed increasing amounts of irrigation, a practice that altered the way waterways were supplied and replenished.
"We don't believe [Environment Canterbury] at all. We are absolutely positive that it's linked to the massive draw-off of irrigation in in-land Canterbury."
Environment Canterbury (ECan) surface water science manager Tim Davie said irrigation did lead to lower water levels, but in this case, low rainfall was the primary cause.
"The lack of rainfall over the past two years, particularly over the winters, is the dominant factor. Waimairi Stream has gone dry in the past after periods of dry weather."
He said ECan was monitoring irrigation consents to ensure no-one was exceeding their allotment.
"We are making sure that nobody is irrigating from ground water or surface water in excess of their consented limits and we continue to monitor flows in Waimairi Stream and other streams in the region."