Councillor Gary McPhee Councillor Gary McPhee CREDIT: Greater Wellington Regional Council

What sort of river do you want?

Monday 5 November 2012, 1:12PM
By Greater Wellington Regional Council


What’s worse than no summer? A long summer with temperatures consistently above 30 degrees, not being able to cool off in your favourite swimming hole because it’s polluted, and prohibition.\

Water testing shows Wairarapa rivers are a mixed bag. Close to the Tararuas the rivers are all clean and clear and bloody cold for the most part. That’s the Waingawa, the Waiohine, the Tauherenikau and the top end of the Ruamahanga.

The water quality in the Ruamahanga goes down hill from Te Ore Ore to Lake Onoke and the lower bit of the Waipoua isn’t great either. In these areas, Greater Wellington Regional Council staff sometimes find bacteria in the water. The sort that might or might not make you sick, no one can say for sure. It gets a bit technical.

Bacteria is worst after heavy rain when a lot stuff gets washed into the rivers, but no one swims after heavy rain, and most of it gets washed away pretty quickly. Maybe it’s something to do with how strong your stomach is, or whether you swim with your mouth open.

It’s no secret how bacteria gets into the rivers. It’s a mix of run-off from farms and treated sewage from Masterton, Carterton, Greytown, Featherston and Martinborough. So most of us are contributing to the problem in some way.

What should we do about it? The boffins at the regional council could make more rules, but we’ve already got plenty of rules. And the rivers don’t belong to the regional council. They belong to the people in Wairarapa.

The people of Wairarapa need to work out what state they want their rivers to be in and how to manage the environment to make that happen. It’ll be a long conversation and everyone needs to be represented – farmers, townies, industry, iwi, environmentalists, councils – the lot.

If the whole community agrees on an environmental target for their rivers and sets a course for achieving that, then I think we’ll have the answer.

That’s the approach the regional council is taking with its new regional plans for managing the environment - the community agreeing on methods for managing land to improve water quality. Greater Wellington is looking to set up a zone committee for the Wairarapa Valley to make this happen.

Even then water quality won’t improve over night. It’ll take time. You’ll be hearing more about this Wairarapa Valley Zone Committee in the months to come.

In the meantime, I hope it’s a good summer. The swimming hole at the bottom of my place is a top spot to cool off.