Lance Talstra (left) chats to River of Life Project co-ordinator Mark Gibson, during a walk through red zone land along the Avon River in Christchurch. Photo by David Hill
A Bay of Plenty schoolteacher was fed up with politicians
setting the agenda on the water quality debate, so he decided
to go out and speak to ordinary New Zealanders.
Lance Talstra left Cape Reinga on October 1 last year on a
six-month ''Walk for Water Quality'', walking the length of
New Zealand following the Te Araroa Trail.
His mission, to see for himself what was happening to New
Zealand's environment and to speak to farmers,
environmentalists, scientists, politicians, journalists and
anyone else concerned with water quality.
''It goes back to John Key's 100% Pure New Zealand interview
on the BBC.
''He was totally dismissive of Dr Mike Joy's findings. He was
dismissive of science, so I decided to take action,'' Mr
The 2.04m tall walker said he had received a mostly positive
response from the people he had met along the journey.
''Most people are genuinely concerned about the state of
''I've had a couple of guys say `it's all a big beat-up' or
`it's not worth worrying about'. But, by and large, most
people have been concerned.
''They don't always have a good understanding of the issues,
but what they want is fresh water to drink, to be able to
fish and to swim in our rivers, and I think that's pretty
Along the journey, Mr Talstra has met Massey University
scientist Dr Mike Joy, but Prime Minister John Key has
declined his invitation to meet, so far.
He has also called on economist Gareth Morgan and Federated
Farmers chief executive Conor English.
''He was a good guy [English]. I didn't agree with everything
he said, but he did say farmers were aware of the issues and
he opened his door to this strange-looking guy with a
Mr Talstra had visited farms to see first hand what farmers
were doing to improve water quality, including Northland
farmers Dave and Louise Wilson.
''I am fairly sure they had a suspicion that I might be some
sort of crackpot, but I think in the end they realised that I
was more interested in promoting the proactive approach that
they are taking on their farm, rather than slagging off
farmers for being polluting miscreants.''
Mr Talstra wrote in his blog at http://walkforwaterquality.blogspot.co.nz/.
Mr Talstra has been posting regularly on his Facebook page
''Walk for Water Quality'' and now has more than 500 likes.
He spent the weekend of March 7-9 in Christchurch and joined
members of the River of Life Project, a Methodist
Church-based environmental initiative, for a short stroll
through red-zoned land along the Avon River.
During the stroll, Mr Talstra collected a sample of water in
preparation for a press conference the next day with Green MP
Mr Talstra said he promised his partner, Edwina Heath, he
would be home in time for her birthday on April 20, so he was
on a tight schedule to complete his journey to Bluff in time.
''I've been back home a couple of times. Six months away from
home, probably wouldn't be on,'' said the stepfather of two
- by David Hill