Water quality in Canterbury rivers is improving:
Recreational water quality sampling has found that, of the 52 monitored freshwater swimming sites, 12 have improved a grade, and four declined.
During swimming season (November to March), Environment Canterbury assesses the health risks from faecal contamination at popular swimming sites around the region.
“We test and grade popular places that people swim in Canterbury. This year 12 sites have improved. The year before, 10 sites improved and the year before that only five improved, so the trend is going in the right direction,” said Tim Davie, Chief Scientist.
“The improvement demonstrates the hard work of landowners to exclude stock and protect waterways by planting and fencing. Reduced runoff from two dry summers has helped as well.” . .
It’s good to see farmers getting credit for the work they’ve done to protect waterways.
Too often farm animals get all the blam but birds and people pooh too and now the blame for some of the problems is correctly being laid on birds:
. . . Hurunui District Mayor Winton Dalley said large numbers of birds near the Hurunui river were likely to be a major contributor to faecal contamination at the popular swimming spot by State Highway 7, which is the main route to Hamner Springs.
“There is no logic that it is farm related, but we do know there is considerable bird life in the river just upstream of the site,” he said.
But Mr Dalley said he was unsure what could be done to move them on.
“I don’t know what is feasible in terms of whether they can be moved to somewhere else…we will have to talk to bird experts, but we will first have to determine that is the cause,” he said.
Mr Davie said the regional council was continuing testing at the Hurunui site, but it did blame birds for the faecal contamination at Lake Hood’s main swimming beach.
“It’s fundamentally to do with birds and the lake circulation…there was a raft there and the birds sat on it…we had a lot of faecal contamination there,” said Mr Davie.
This isn’t the only place water pollution is caused by birds.
Water pollution isn’t the only problem birds cause.
Growing numbers of native birds is cause for celebration, but the news isn’t all good:
. . . they also warn of a downside if a rampant bird population comes to depend on agricultural crops for food because its natural habitat is too small.
Hawke’s Bay farmer and former president of Federated Farmers, Bruce Wills, has raised the problem.
Mr Wills is a green farmer, and chair of the environmental consultancy Motu.
He also helps eliminate predators on his farm as part of a local wildlife programme, Cape to City, of which he is on the board.
However, Mr Wills said bird restoration might one day be too successful.
“There’s no question, bird numbers have gone through the roof.
“I have never seen the sort of bird numbers that I am seeing now, and most of that is due to the success with predator eradication.”
Mr Wills said large numbers of birds could spread seeds to widespread locations, and there was another problem.
The Hawke’s Bay grows 70 percent of New Zealand’s apples and pears, he said.
“We are bringing the kākā and the kākāriki in from Cape Kidnappers and of course these two birds enjoy eating our apples and pears.
“I have had phone calls of concern from apple and pear growers saying this is great but potentially will have an adverse effect on a quickly growing Hawke’s Bay apple and pear industry.”
Mr Wills said he had no intention of abandoning his support of native birds, but said potential overpopulation was an issue that needed to be faced.
Alan Pollard, of New Zealand Apples and Pears, formerly Pipfruit New Zealand, agreed with him.
“There is certainly a risk because obviously apples are a crop that birds are attracted to, so we need to make sure we achieve good population growth but also protect the growing areas that we have.”
Bird life in New Zealand evolved over millions of years to step in with the bush cover that existed before human settlement.
When that bush cover declined, so did the bird population.
But intensive breeding and predator eradication means the bird population could grow faster than the bush that supports it. This could push the population out of synch with modern New Zealand ecology – which has masses of farmland. . .
Back to water quality, 16 Auckland beaches are unswimmable and human waste is a big part of the problem:
Ecomatters Environment Trust’s Dan Ducker said this was unacceptable.
The environmentalist said he’d seen day-trippers defecating at such lagoons.
“This happens especially in summer time when the public facilities are quite full, or at times are closed.”
“It’s complicated, but the major health risks to humans comes from humans.”
The lagoons at Piha and Bethells have been contaminated by faeces for years, he said.
Recent Auckland Council reports showed faulty septic tanks were part of the problem. Dog, birds, and livestock faeces have been found in the lagoons.
Waiheke Island’s Little Oneroa has had similar faeces issues.
But Ducker said human faeces at Piha, Karekare and Bethells lagoons “was the most dangerous aspect for humans”. . .
Farmers, quite rightly, are no longer getting away with the practices which pollute waterways but councils continue to allow leeway for pollution for people and themselves.
Water contamination from people is common in developing countries. It shouldn’t be a problem in New Zealand and wouldn’t be if councils put the effort, and money, into better storm water and sewerage infrastructure.