Cow died an 'agonising death'

Photo / Millan Ruka
Photo / Millan Ruka

A complaint regarding a cow that died after becoming bogged in mud along an unfenced stream near Whangarei has been followed up by Northland Regional Council after a call to its hotline.

Clean streams campaigner Millan Ruka has threatened to post photos of the cow on public online site Picasa Webb, along with reports of the degradation which he regularly documents along the Hikurangi Swamp and catchment's waterways.

He said the cow died a prolonged, agonising death because a farmer had not properly fenced off the stream.

Northland Regional Council monitoring manager Colin Dall said the council responded to the complaint earlier this month.

"We received the report on 15 November via our hotline.

"An officer did follow up the complaint and ascertained from the farmer who owned the cow that it was removed as soon as he became aware of it."

Mr Dall said the farmer was advised of the council's environmental fund which provides funding for fencing.

"When we contacted the farmer he did express an interest in fencing off the area.

"Next week we will be visiting the farmer to discuss the issue of fencing."

No decision has been made on enforcement action regarding the incident, Mr Dall said.

But, Mr Ruka remains unimpressed about the council's attitude to water pollution and stream bank damage.

"Northland Regional Council is still ho-hum, unless something is going on behind the scenes that I don't see," Mr Ruka said.

"They just don't get it really. I keep saying it, but will now reluctantly load up reports on public Picasa Webb and leave them there till we have a satisfactory resolution."

He said the cow could have taken up to three days to die after becoming trapped.

"Fonterra are actively trying to determine if one of their farmers owns the cow. If it is, they will remove it as soon a possible, I have been advised."

The stream catchment feeds into the Northern Wairoa River and downstream into the Kaipara Harbour which has the largest harbour coastline in the southern hemisphere and is said to be New Zealand's biggest snapper nursery. The Hikurangi Swamp network is also a major habitat for long-finned eels (tuna), a species identified as potentially endangered because of loss of habitat.

Mr Ruka, the chairman of Environment River Patrol Northland Trust and ranger with Environment River Patrol Aotearoa, has drafted the Stock Exclusion Fencing Code (SEFRC), a process he hopes will include Whangarei district and Northland regional councils, central Government, farming groups and Fonterra agreeing to legislation or codes for waterways and fencing. SEFRC has 37 codes and recommendations that can be applied to mitigate against effects from unfenced stock.

Mr Ruka has spent hundreds of hours kayaking the network of waterways photographing and GPS-recording damage to the banks, dead cattle in the water and other signs of fouling.

- Northern Advocate and APNZ

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