Stream clean-up won’t be easy

EDITORIAL

Gisborne District Council has a pressing problem in the poor ecological state of the Waikanae Stream which runs through the city.

A report presented to the environmental planning and regulations committee painted a bleak picture for the stream.

There was evidence of contamination at all eight sites in the council’s Waikanae Stream contaminated land investigation project. Embarrassingly, the council has been the owner or occupier of five of the eight sites.

It is disappointing that aquatic life in the middle reach of the stream is likely to consist only of pollutant-resistant species like mud crabs and worms — especially with all the riparian planting, weeding and rubbish clearance by volunteers and sponsors over recent years.

This is developing into a long-term project for the council. The investigation has already cost $197,781, of which $84,500 has come from the Ministry for the Environment. Unfortunately an application to the ministry’s contaminated land remediation fund has failed. Another will be made.

Water quality is a big issue for the council. It has another longstanding problem in the same area in the state of the former Paokahu landfill, which continues to leach contaminants. That has been an ecological and financial disaster for the council, and the situation is not over yet with the council faced with a possible hefty bill.

As part of its wastewater plant consent, the council has a requirement to improve the mauri and water quality of Poverty Bay.

And it has prepared a catchment plan for the Waipaoa River Catchment as part of its freshwater plan. There are calls for similar treatment for the Te Arai River.

The Waikanae Stream remains the most visible problem. Regular walkers along the excellent Alfred Cox walkway know it is a rather smelly waterway at low tide.

A considerable part of that dates back to the establishment of the Industrial Subdivision in the 1960s and the comparatively lax attitude of that time to discharges.

While it is far from the only such problem the council has, it is probably one that city residents want prioritised. That is going to take time and money.

Gisborne District Council has a pressing problem in the poor ecological state of the Waikanae Stream which runs through the city.

A report presented to the environmental planning and regulations committee painted a bleak picture for the stream.

There was evidence of contamination at all eight sites in the council’s Waikanae Stream contaminated land investigation project. Embarrassingly, the council has been the owner or occupier of five of the eight sites.

It is disappointing that aquatic life in the middle reach of the stream is likely to consist only of pollutant-resistant species like mud crabs and worms — especially with all the riparian planting, weeding and rubbish clearance by volunteers and sponsors over recent years.

This is developing into a long-term project for the council. The investigation has already cost $197,781, of which $84,500 has come from the Ministry for the Environment. Unfortunately an application to the ministry’s contaminated land remediation fund has failed. Another will be made.

Water quality is a big issue for the council. It has another longstanding problem in the same area in the state of the former Paokahu landfill, which continues to leach contaminants. That has been an ecological and financial disaster for the council, and the situation is not over yet with the council faced with a possible hefty bill.

As part of its wastewater plant consent, the council has a requirement to improve the mauri and water quality of Poverty Bay.

And it has prepared a catchment plan for the Waipaoa River Catchment as part of its freshwater plan. There are calls for similar treatment for the Te Arai River.

The Waikanae Stream remains the most visible problem. Regular walkers along the excellent Alfred Cox walkway know it is a rather smelly waterway at low tide.

A considerable part of that dates back to the establishment of the Industrial Subdivision in the 1960s and the comparatively lax attitude of that time to discharges.

While it is far from the only such problem the council has, it is probably one that city residents want prioritised. That is going to take time and money.

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Thelma Karaitiana - 8 days ago
Nga mihi o te wa ki te Etita,
The catchment area of the Waikanae River is, in comparison to others in the region, a short 7km. Along its banks has flowed the richest and the most contemptible narratives of the histories of a developing Gisborne.
The headwaters of Waikanae are behind the current airport, at the Makaraka Racecourse and pass through the industrial and residential planning zones, flowing through the lands known traditionally as Awapuni and Te Wai o Hiharore, before discharging into the Turanganui River. The headwaters of Waikanae, and indeed the river, are hugely significant to the storytelling traditions of the people of Ngai Tawhiri and Ngai te Kete of Rongowhakaata, and Te Whanau a Iwi of Te Aitanga a Mahaki. Such narratives assert a tradition of ecological relevance, that of Kaitiekitanga, or of being compatible with the environment.
Therefore, the Waikanae River not only flows through the city but it flows through our local histories and it follows a chartered course of toxic abuse and negligence that has been heaped in it and along it. The Waikanae stream has been the location of sewage dumping and refuse landfills.
Acknowledgement must be given to the community-driven efforts made to restore the well-being of the river and banks which has seen the return of plants and birds. And when the tide is in one could be forgiven for thinking Waikanae is well, if not for the offensive stink that arises with the outgoing tide. It is a major concern that the actions of the city fathers have become so normalised as to allow the Waikanae to become what it is today. Change is needed, there are ratepayers who are relevant in the restoration of the Waikanae, bring them in, give them a voice.

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