Health risk at Moeraki beach

Visiting the Moeraki Boulders at Koekohe Beach between Hampden and Moeraki could be a threat to your health if you wash your hands in the creek which runs across the beach, the Otago Conservation Board warns.

The board wants action to deal with the quality of water in Waiwherowhero Creek, which crosses the beach between the Department of Conservation car park and the boulders, and into which the Moeraki sewerage scheme discharges.

Board chairman Hoani Langsbury said the board considered the situation to be serious due to the proximity of the discharge to the highly popular "iconic" tourist destination and as people, sometimes children in bare feet, walked through the discharge.

"There are significant health issues here, that in the event of a major outbreak of illness, could reflect badly on all parties concerned."

Board member Abby Smith said people were washing their hands in the water, so signage was needed urgently.

Otago Regional Council resource management director Dr Selva Selvarajah said the council had been in talks with the Waitaki District Council to try to remedy issues at the sewerage plant, which had problems with compliance.

As a result, the district council had reconfigured the wetland system to try to improve the discharge.

However, while it would only be a few years before the scheme's consent ran out, and even if sewerage scheme discharge into the creek could be avoided, there would still be a health risk due to run off from the surrounding farms, he said.

"If we're going to get hard on the [Waitaki council], we've got to get hard on the landowners as well."

The issue was not unique to Moeraki, but was faced in most of lowland Otago where rivers were polluted, mainly by intensive farming.


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