Battle for a clean river in the community's hands

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013
sage stand
JONATHAN CAMERON
Green Party MP Eugenie Sage joined Friends of the Waitara River group in a paddle of the river to highlight awareness of water pollution.

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A fleet of kayakers and a waka ama crew paddled the Waitara River on Saturday to raise awareness of high water pollution levels.

As part of the Green Party's fourth annual Dirty Water tour to Taranaki, Green Party MP Eugenie Sage took to the river with a handful of other supporters to promote clean waterways.

Taranaki rivers were under pressure from pollution and water demand largely because of agriculture and irrigation, Ms Sage said.

"The Taranaki Regional Council needs to realise there is a problem and focus on ensuring our rivers and streams are safe to swim in," Ms Sage said.

Waitara's river water quality was right up there with the worst rivers in New Zealand, she said.

In 2010, the Waitara River was ranked the lowest of all 77 river sites managed by NIWA in terms of recreational water quality and 55th out of 77 in nutrient levels.

A recent TRC environment report said there were about 1400 dairy shed discharges into Taranaki rivers - a practice not allowed in much of the country, Miss Sage said.

Miss Sage was joined by members of the Friends of the Waitara River group for the paddle.

Member Catherine Evans said cleaning up the Waitara River would require a community effort.

"The battle for this river is going to be won with people's minds and ideas and how they believe this river should be regulated," Ms Evans said.

That included people from not only Waitara but the whole catchment area.

"We've got to think of it holistically.

"It's not going to be a small group of people changing this, it's about a whole community."

TRC needed to create and implement greater policy around improving river water quality, Ms Sage said.

"This is a council that's relied too much on volunteer initiatives.

"We can't have sustainable farming in the long-term unless we clean up our waterways," she said.

The paddle was followed by a barbecue in Waitara, a public forum featuring guest speakers, live music and a movie screening.

TRC director environment quality Gary Bedford declined to comment yesterday as he wanted all the "facts and figures" in front of him so he could inform the public rather than get political.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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