Rubbish strewn in stream 'disgusting'

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 09:00 08/03/2014
 Highbury teacher Peter TeRangi
MURRAY WILSON
URBAN WASTE: Highbury teacher Peter TeRangi is disgusted by the layer of junk that lines the Kawau Stream bed.

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The dry season has revealed that Palmerston North's Kawau Stream is being treated as a rubbish dump.

The exposed stream bed is strewn with bottles and cans and household throwaways.

Visible from the footbridge between Ellesmere Cres and Wilson Cres are bikes, rackets, tyres, a suitcase, vacuum cleaner, shopping trolley, pram, chair and other items harder to identify.

Highbury teacher Peter TeRangi, a member of the Rangitaane iwi, was "horrified" by the pollution.

"Our waterways are indicative of the spirituality of the people in the region and this sends a very poor message about how we regard our environment."

Highbury resident Trish Pani said she could not believe how bad it had become.

"I used to swim in here when I was younger. It was clean. It was nice. We used to look for cockabullies.

"Now it's just disgusting."

Mr TeRangi said that, while everyone should take responsibility for the way they treated the environment, the city council and Horizons Regional Council should take a lead.

"They are the ones who have this overarching mandate."

The Kawau Stream feeds into the Mangaone Stream before joining the Manawatu River, and cleaning up the river had to start a few steps back with the tributaries, he said.

Mr TeRangi said the lack of planning rules to control the proliferation of alcohol outlets in the area made the problem worse.

"Putting three or four bottle stores in this part of town will not help, because a large portion of this rubbish is alcohol bottles and cans.

"The city fathers are as accountable as the people who dispose of it in a careless manner."

Mr TeRangi suggested there should be a surcharge placed on businesses which contributed to generating the rubbish that was chucked into the stream.

"Charge every bottle store an environmental levy and a family-first levy to meet the social impact."

Palmerston North City Council stormwater asset engineer John McCartin said what was left behind in the stream bed when it dried out was just a portion of the rubbish - most of it had already been flushed out to sea.

Some of the bigger items had been there for some time, while items that would float, including dangerous plastics, were either trapped in the Foxton Estuary, or were polluting the ocean.

Mr McCartin estimated more than 80 per cent of the pollution began with litter thrown on to streets, carried along gutters and into the stormwater system, then into streams and the river through more than 100 outlets around the city.

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It was quite difficult to use filters to screen out rubbish without choking the flow of stormwater when there was heavy rain. Fly-tippers had probably dumped some of the larger items, he said.

Mr McCartin said dredging out the stream bed was not a solution, as that would lower the level below the culverts that ran under roads.

He said the two councils and members of the local community could have a cleanup. But it would not be a lasting solution until people took responsibility for how they got rid of their rubbish.

"The solution is awareness. Who is responsible? It is all of us."

Mr McCartin said he was heartened that there were some people in Highbury interested in cleaning up the stream.

"There is little point spending money on a cleanup if, in a couple of years, it's just as bad, if people don't take ownership. "People need to understand the environment is not out there in a national park. It is here in our streets."

Horizons has had a complaint to its pollution hotline about the state of the stream this week, and is planning to work with the city council on a cleanup.

The costs would be shared between the two councils.

- Manawatu Standard

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