Evidence of water fouling to go global

By Lindy Laird

Photos of dead cows that got bogged in mud along unfenced streams near Whangarei are among ugly images about to go global.

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

Mr Ruka hopes the move will spur territorial authorities and other parties to act more decisively. He said he is frustrated at the slow progress authorities appear to be making over the problem of water pollution and stream bank damage caused by some farming practices.

"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."

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.

Mr Ruka said most farmers acted responsibly but he often notified NRC of recurring problem sites, such as the farm on the Wairua River where the dead cow was filmed during the making of a documentary just over a week ago.

"This was a healthy cow (or) heifer that got bogged on the river bank where it was drinking from the river. There are no apparent water troughs in the river side paddocks. The cow would have suffered an agonising death over three days or so.

"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 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.

- Northern Advocate

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