Community rivers are not industrial sewers, Otago regional
councillor Bryan Scott says.
He believes Kakanui irrigators and the community have a clear
responsibility to wake up to the water quality problems the
His comments came as the council's natural resources
committee discussed a report on water quality in the Kakanui
catchment at a meeting yesterday.
The report on a 10-month water sampling programme revealed
water quality parameters had deteriorated in recent years,
with many waterways exceeding nationally recognised
guidelines for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous and
limits for bacteria such as E. coli.
There were concerns that if the trends were left unchecked,
they would lead to nitrate accumulation in the Kakanui
Also, the high nutrient concentrations from the lower Kakanui
River and Waiareka Creek could stimulate the increase of
algae in the Kakanui estuary.
The likely contributors were the intensification of land use
in recent years, including more dairy farming and
insufficient effluent storage.
Cr Scott said media reports indicated irrigators were under
the "false illusion" water quality in their streams was good.
"Quite simply it's not, and it's going to get worse. Quite
obviously there is a fundamental disconnect between farm
practice and water quality."
He believed they had a clear responsibility to "face up" to
"These are not industrial sewers; they're community rivers."
Chairman Stephen Woodhead said it did not suggest there was a
"disconnect" as everyone understood intensive land use had an
impact on water quality.
Environmental information and science director John Threlfall
said the Waiareka Creek looked better now than it did five
years ago because it had more water in it.
"It's all about perception. It used to be slow and sluggish.
It may look better, but [it] needs more work."
Cr Doug Brown, who farms in the area, said the report had big
implications for not only the Kakanui but for any catchment
considering irrigation schemes.
Cr Trevor Kempton said the Kakanui's problems were no
different than in any other Otago catchment affected by
intensification, but were complicated by the the area's soil
types and aquifer.
Dr Threlfall said the North Otago Irrigation Company and the
council were looking at ways to improve best practice and
were working with AgResearch.
"This report gives us baseline data so we can prioritise
future work programmes and the local community as a whole
seems to want to improve things."
• Crs Duncan Butcher and David Shepherd (6A water plan change
hearing panel members) left for the discussion.
- 894sq km
- Main tributaries: Kakanui
River, Island Stream, Waiareka Creek.
- Lower reaches dominated by
sheep, beef, deer, cropping farming.
- Dairy rose 180% on recently
irrigated land area.
- Higher reaches mostly native or
plantation forestry or pasture for sheep, beef or deer.