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Stream clean-up won’t be easy

Opinion Piece

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.