Nature thwarts all rivers swimmable goal

The Green Party’s goal to have all rivers swimable is emotionally appealing but one which will be thwarted by nature.

Some rivers will never be safe for swimming, not as a result of pollution by people or animals but by nature.

Natural pollutants include volcanoes, birds, native and introduced species, and, at least temporarily, storms.

There are however, lots of waterways that should and could be cleaner but the Greens’ every-river-swimmable stunt has already got offside it with farmers the party claims it wants to work with.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon wasn’t impressed with the Greens’ approach – he says the Ruamahanga is perfectly swimmable.

“We’re really disappointed the Greens have picked the Ruamahanga to promote their political statements about swimmability versus wadeability.”

He says the only reason the river has a poor bill of health is the sewage plant upstream, because farmers have fenced off all waterways in the Ruamahanga catchment that are more than a metre wide and permanently flowing.

Mr Falloon says anyone who thinks dairy intensification needs to be reduced must simply dislike farmers, who are unwilling to work with the Greens after their “political stunt”.


Not when they use language like ‘the tragic state of the river’ and political stunts like getting schoolchildren to wade into the river in the middle of winter.”

It’s also irresponsible to go wading in the river when it’s in high flow due to rain, Mr Falloon says. . .

Emotion beats facts in politics and stunts get publicity but cleaning up waterways requires a co-operative approach and the Greens can’t even get Labour enthusiastic, in spite of their memorandum of understanding.

Labour leader Andrew Little says cleaning up the rivers wouldn’t be a priority for a Labour-led Government. . .

Improvements in water quality are already being achieved by co-operative efforts from central and local government, communities, farmers and other businesses.

More needs to be done. That requires more co-operation which won’t be achieved if major players like farmers and a political ally aren’t on-side.

19 Responses to Nature thwarts all rivers swimmable goal

  1. Mr E says:

    The Greens have focused on the Recreational water quality indicator for their attention.

    The this indicator selects sites of monitoring based on human high levels of human pressure.

    Additionally the indicator is significantly influenced by subjective factors. Factors that can be affected by perceptions. Perceptions like the presence of a dairy farm near a sample site.

    At any site it is possible that the objective measures could be trending toward improvement (ecoli) but subjective measures eliminate any gains.

    Essentially what has happened is the Greens have selected the worst waterways, from a biased (toward bad) sampling regime.

    It is completely transparent as the worst kind of politicking there is.

    Dirty politics.


  2. Name Withheld says:

    At least it might take their minds off finding ways to trash our property values while they are busy paddling.
    To call these bumbling idiots barking mad is an insult to dogs everywhere.


  3. Chris says:

    I would like to see the greens swim in the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai after it comes out of the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu. This is not man made pollution, it is natural from a volcano as Ele points out.


  4. Mr E says:

    We live in a Global environment. Our digital media is Global.

    Do you think our markets don’t see the Greens propaganda? Do you think they actively ignore it and values are unaffected? Do you think your products are not your property?


  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    Paul Henry is on our side 😉

    Our whole approach is actually community based and we celebrate farmers making a positive difference.

    “Natural pollutants include volcanoes, birds, native and introduced species, and, at least temporarily, storms.”

    Ele, to say that these natural effects have make rivers unsafe for swimming is a wet argument (note the pun) because all the statistics point to the fact that agriculture and urban environments have the biggest impact on river quality.

    According to LAWA:

    “Water quality is very good in areas with indigenous vegetation and less intensive use of land. Rivers in agricultural and urban areas have reduced water clarity and aquatic insect life, and higher levels of nutrients and Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria.”

    “The greatest impact of excessive nutrients in New Zealand rivers is nuisance slime and algae (periphyton) growth. This growth can impede river flows, block irrigation and water supply intakes, and smother riverbed habitats. Poor water clarity and elevated E.coli levels also affect our ability to use fresh water for recreation.”

    “Between 1990 and 2012, the estimated amount of nitrogen that leached into soil from agriculture increased 29 percent. This increase was mainly due to increases in dairy cattle numbers and nitrogen fertiliser. Once in the soil, excess nitrogen travels through soil and rock layers, ending up in groundwater, rivers, and lakes.”

    “Between 1989 and 2013, total nitrogen levels in rivers increased 12 percent, with 60 percent of monitored sites showing statistically significant increases. About 49 percent of monitored river sites have enough nitrogen to trigger nuisance periphyton growth, as long as there is enough sunlight, phosphorus, and a lack of flood events for periphyton to bloom. Phosphorus also triggers nuisance periphyton growth. About 32 percent of monitored sites have enough phosphorus to trigger this growth.”


  6. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, perhaps you should get LAWA closed down before the markets find out 😉


  7. Mr E says:

    Can you show me where LAWA talk about the swimibility of the river referred to by the Green Party?


  8. Mr E says:

    The River that the Greens selected for Southland in its dirtiest rivers propoganda is the Mataura River.

    These are the 10 yr trend conclusions from LAWA for the Mataura:
    Ecoli – No trend
    Black disc – No trend
    Turbidity – No trend
    Total Nitrogen – No trend
    Total Oxidised Nitrogen – No trend
    Ammoniacal Nitrogen – Meaningful Improvement
    Dissolved Reactive Phosphate – Meaningful Improvement
    Total Phosphate – Meaningful Improvement
    pH – significant degradation

    By in large this river is stable or improving.

    The Greens propoganda says “Under National, nearly two thirds of our rivers are unsafe for swimming. New Zealand needs a Government to back our rivers, and to stop defending polluters.”

    Yet facts say under National the Mataura river (one of the rivers the Greens have drawn attention to) has improved.


  9. Mr E says:

    Federated Farmers Wairarapa provincial president Jamie Falloon said the campaign launch was an “absolute publicity stunt”.

    “All the recent statistics point to this being a publicity stunt. In the last 289 measurements taken down from the sewage facility, there has only been one that showed a dangerous level and it was after heavy rainfall,” he said.

    GWRC statistics for the Ruamahanga River back up Falloon’s comments, with data showing only one instance in almost three years in which the river exceeded levels deemed unsafe for swimming.

    “All the stats show that they are overblowing the issue in the Wairarapa,” Falloon said. “The Cliffs is a hugely popular local swimming spot, which thousands of people enjoy every year, the reason it has a D grade is precautionary and related to the sewage treatment facility being upriver from it.”


  10. Mr E says:

    “Greens failed to make a splash with its swimmable river campaign when water safety was the issue, not water quality. Cops turned up to The Cliffs Ruamahanga River yesterday telling Green Party leaders and kids not to get in to the flooded river. ”

    Source – Feds.


  11. Mr E says:

    Interestingly the LAWA data for the Ruamahanga River is similar to that of Mataura.
    10yr trends are nearly all stable or improving accept ammoniacal nitrogen a measure of human pollution such as sewage.

    Green’s are drawing attention towards how bad urban pollution is.

    I suppose that is a good thing.


  12. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E the bottom line for this Government is that rivers should be wadable. The Green Party believes that we should be more aspirational and aim for swimmable. We have praised the efforts of those who are already making changes to reduce pollution and want everyone to do what they can to lift quality, including urban areas.

    Blaming volcanoes and birds for a lot of our water issues just doesn’t cut it for me and goes against LAWA’s research for what has generally caused a decline in water quality.

    While river can flush to ‘good’ quality after rain and sediment/nitrate influx, we have to remember that much of it ends up in our lakes and estuaries that are really struggling.

    We have had endless discussions before on water quality and you keep disputing the broad findings of LAWA. I don’t.


  13. Mr E says:

    “you keep disputing the broad findings of LAWA. I don’t.”

    You dont dispute – the water quality of the Ruamahanga River is “generally good”?

    You don’t dispute the water quality of the Ruamahanga River and Mataura is largely either stable or improving – and where issues do occur they are because of urbanites.

    Then it seems you do disagree with your Party leader.

    Very well.


  14. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, surely you’re not saying that because a river is “generally good” that there isn’t room for more improvement and the Mataura is “stable or improving” from a pretty low current rating.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with you view that enough is being done already.


  15. Mr E says:

    “surely you’re not saying”

    That is right I am surely am not saying.

    What I would say is the the Greens make a lot of incorrect assertions about our waterways.

    They choose one spot in a waterway and claim a river is unswimmable.

    What I think is good about their approach is I think they are drawing attention to the role Urban populations have on pollution.

    LAWA reports the only contamination that has trended upward in the last 10 years is Ammonical Nitrogen. A measure of contaminants from human popluations like sewage.

    By protesting at the Ruamahanga River the Greens as saying to the Urban population – stop crapping in our waterways.

    I think that is a good message from the Greens.

    Regarding the Mataura, the Greens have claimed it along with others have become the unswimmable under a National government. LAWA suggests all nutrients and bacteria in this waterway are either stable or improving.

    I think it is easier to talk improvements with without misinformation on the table. Know full well it won’t be retracted – lets move forward.

    I suspect the Mataura could make some gains in Nitrate (nothing to do with swimmibility). The National Government have given strong directives to Councils to collaborate with communities to set limits for issues like this and reduce any issues communities may be concerned by. Critically they are requiring an improvement in water quality.

    It seems the National Govt is making gains Dave. You just chose not to see it.


  16. Dave Kennedy says:

    “the Greens have claimed it along with others have become the unswimmable under a National government.”

    No we haven’t, we agree with most scientists, the Royal Society, LAWA and the Commissioner for the Environment that our rivers have deteriorated as farming has intensified, this was under Labour too. What we object to about National was it’s initial denial that there was a problem, it’s open support for intensification and the low water quality standards it has put into place.

    The government isn’t making gains, it is the regional councils that are mainly doing the hard work, many farmers are making an effort and more recently the dairy price has caused stock numbers to drop.

    The Government has had little to do with the attempts to address the work to save the Waituna, that work was led by the local land care group and supported by the science paid for from the $80 million the Greens got for researching wetlands.

    Also more sites are deteriorating than improving according to LAWA because of nitrogen.


  17. Mr E says:

    “No we haven’t”

    Yes you have

    “Under National, nearly two thirds of our rivers are unsafe for swimming” – Green Party co leader.

    “we agree with most scientists”

    Then you will agree that improvements have also occurred.

    “The Government has had little to do with the attempts to address the work to save the Waituna”

    You think we need commissioners? You think our council is not capable?

    Very well.


  18. Mr E says:

    “But the council’s director of environment quality, Gary Bedford, said the Greens had gotten their wires crossed by making “selective” use of the council’s data and were simply “wrong” in the way they had interpreted the report.”


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