Pollution warning can't stop Te Awanga campers

By Lawrence Gullery

The annual pollution warning over the Maraetotara River has not deterred visitors to the neighbouring Te Awanga Motorcamp which has recorded a bumper summer holiday season.

Hastings District Council this week removed warning signs posted about six weeks ago, asking people not to swim in the river and not to take seafood from the beach.

Elevated bacterial (e-coli) levels in the connecting Te Awanga Lagoon were detected in early to mid-January but now the level of pollution had reduced.

Motorcamp manager Noel Kennedy confirmed the Hawke's Bay Regional Council tested the drinking water at the camp and the nearby river in January.

"I only got told the results of our drinking water which is okay. But I wasn't told the results of the river water. The next week after the tests were done, a man from the council came out and put up the warning signs."

Mr Kennedy said the camp had two weeks where every site was full and some people were disappointed they couldn't use the river.

"But they were happy at least they could go on to the beach and access the sea, and enjoy it that way.

"Most people accepted the warning as something we just had to deal with and we've had a very good holiday season this year."

He said the pollution problems had been remembered by people working at the camp stretching back many years.

Low flow periods over summer meant the river did not have enough water volume to flush out to sea. The river mouth could also become blocked, as it is now, preventing the water from flowing out.

The blocked mouth had in the past caused flooding when large volumes of water could not pass out to sea. The water backed up into the motorcamp and flooded the neighbouring Te Awanga community.

"We now have a good arrangement with the council where we keep on top of making sure the river mouth is open," Mr Kennedy said.

"If it is blocked, I'm able to ring the council and they'll get a digger out here the next day to open the river mouth up. Sometimes if it's blocked a little bit, we'll actually get out there with our shovels to clear it ourselves."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council does regular monitoring of the waterways, Hastings District Council responds to changing pollution levels by placing warning signs and the District Health Board issues health warnings when required.

The regional council will continue its water monitoring programme throughout the summer months.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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