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River water quality improving in Tasman district

October 8th, 2015
[TDC press release]

Hard work and collaboration between the community and the Tasman District Council to clean up Tasman's rivers is paying off, with latest monitoring results showing a marked improvement in river water quality overall.

The Council's newly-released 2015 State of the Environment River Water Quality report shows a meaningful improvement in water clarity, reduced levels of disease-causing organisms at some sites, and very low levels of E.coli in most of the district's main rivers.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne, a member of the Land and Water Forum, says the results are a testament to the commitment shown by both the council, landowners and local communities to cleaning up our rivers.

"This has been a genuine collaboration to ensure our precious rivers are in good health," he says.

"Farmers have played their part and 99 per cent of dairy stock crossings are now bridged. In some cases simple things like moving drinking troughs away from a creek have made a big difference to stream health.

"A big effort to plant along riverbanks has been going on for many years, and since 2006 23,000 plantings have been carried out by Golden Bay Streamcare and other river care groups, alongside 40,000 across the region by the Council."

The major positive trends identified in the report are:

  • Significant improvement in water clarity at eight sites, including the upper Reservoir Creek, Sherry, Onahau, Onekaka, Mangles, Buller and Motueka rivers.
  • Reduction in disease-causing organisms particularly in the Sherry, Little Sydney and Motupipi rivers, but also at Wairoa, Wangapeka and Motupiko.
  • Very low levels of E.coli in the Aorere River and most of Tasman's major rivers.
  • Dramatic reduction in dissolved reactive phosphorus (which can encourage the growth of nuisance algae) in the Motupipi River.
  • Hundreds of fish passage barriers removed over the past five years from streams in Golden Bay and Tasman Bay.

In addition, big improvements in abundance and diversity of fish and critters are expected over the next 10 years in Richmond's lower Borck Creek as a result of one of the largest stream restoration projects the Council has undertaken.

The Council recognises there is still work to be done to improve water quality in some places. Some of the challenges that remain are:

  • Small streams surrounded by pastoral land often have high temperatures, low dissolved oxygen, heavy sediment deposits and poor habitat.
  • Urban streams contaminated by run-off from roads, roofs and other pollutants.
  • High levels of green algae in spring-fed streams in the Waimea and Takaka areas.

The solution to many of the problems that remain is likely to be targeted streamside planting, which effectively addresses problems with dissolved oxygen levels (essential for the survival of fish and other aquatic life), water temperature, habitat removal and fine sediment trapping by aquatic plants.

Council staff will report on options for addressing the remaining challenges at the Council's next Environment and Planning Committee meeting.

The full report can be viewed on the council's website.


Comment by Phil Grimmett:
[Posted 19 October 2015]

Thanks for the latest TDC press release about the water quality in our region. It declares "River water quality improving". On further analysis the actual report states that of 20 sites tested, 13 showed improving water quality (hurray!) and 7 poorer water quality I.e. greater degradation (boohoo!)

A teacher of a class of 20 students reports to parents that 13 have improved and 7 have got worse. The teacher reports to the BOT that academic standards are improving.... Perhaps if the PR department accentuates the positive the water quality of our degrading rivers might disappear?

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