Ducks, not campers, behind `E.coli' outbreak

Tim Cadogan
Tim Cadogan
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan says it is a relief to find out E. coli contamination in Lake Dunstan at Bendigo was not caused by humans, but the quest to find ``workable solutions'' to the issue of irresponsible camping will continue.

A Land and Information New Zealand (Linz) statement released yesterday said the E. coli outbreak at Bendigo had been traced to pollution from ducks creating unacceptably high levels of bacteria. Laboratory testing had confirmed the results, Linz deputy chief executive of Crown property Jerome Sheppard said.

Mr Cadogan said it would have ``come as a surprise, and a relief, to many'' that the E. coli outbreak near Bendigo had been found to be avian not human.

The outbreak was confirmed on January 23 and at the time Mr Sheppard said it could have been caused by the toilet block at the Bendigo site, or another source. The toilets were immediately closed; site contractors cleared and cleaned the toilet's septic tanks; and extra portable toilets were put in place.

Visitors were also advised not to swim, fish or take water from the area in Lake Dunstan immediately surrounding the Bendigo site, and warning signs were put in place.

Mr Cadogan said the E. coli outbreak was one of the causes of a ``significant public backlash that has come across my desk regarding freedom camping in the last few weeks''.

However, he said ``that the outbreak is not caused by campers only resolves some of the concerns I have been hearing [about freedom camping] and does not mean that efforts to find workable solutions to other concerns will not be pursued by myself and council''.

Mr Sheppard said warning signs would remain in place until bacteria levels had reduced. Linz would also seek advice on whether anything could be done to manage the source of the contamination.

``Samples taken opposite the campsite and both up and downstream continue to show high levels of E. coli, so the warnings will continue to remain in place for now,'' Mr Sheppard said.

``Given that the test results confirm the contamination is not from the toilets or from other human sources, we will be looking to reopen the toilet block at Bendigo as soon as is reasonably practical. We will also keep the portable toilets brought in to help manage demand open as well, given that we still have high numbers of visitors.''

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