Council under fire over toxic algae

By Lawrence Gullery of the Hawke's Bay Today -
CHBS Toxic algae warning sign at Tukituki River. Photo / Supplied
CHBS Toxic algae warning sign at Tukituki River. Photo / Supplied

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has come under fire for not fronting up to a Campbell Live television news story about a dog that died in the Tukituki River.

The council's group manager of resources Iain Maxwell said, however, he did provide comments to Campbell Live but the messages were not passed on in the television story which screened on Monday night.

"The story was that it was an investigation into the public health, human health risks of the blue, green algae, cyanobacteria, throughout New Zealand.

"What we said is that we have a good relationship with the public health unit at the DHB and that we undertake assessment and monitoring of these algae species for the DHB."

Mr Maxwell said the council provided the DHB with weekly updates on the condition of rivers and the information could be used by the DHB to assess the risk to human health.

The regional council had elevated the profile of the cyanobacteria, putting extra information on its website about the problem, which the public could access.

The problem had accelerated due to the drought and record low river flows in the past six months.

Mr Maxwell said there was information and incentives available for property owners who wanted to fence off their dams, if people were worried about stock and pet animals drinking water which might have cyanobacteria.

The DHB's Medical Officer of Health Nicholas Jones said the responsibility of dog and animal health in rivers was "a grey area" and one which perhaps the Ministry for the Environment should look at.

"We are responsible for the human health, that's our principal concern. Our advice if people see these algal mats in the river is that they should keep their dogs away. Do not swim or touch the algal mats, don't drink the water."

Dr Jones said the Tukituki river was long and held great recreational values for the community, as long as it was safe for people to walk along, swim and fish.

"We don't want people to stop going to the river. The trick is to raise the awareness of the risks so people do know what to look for."

Hastings man Ray Bland's two-year dog died a month ago after it wandered into a large dam he visited near Te Awanga.

He's convinced his pet pooch died after drinking lake water which had cyanobacteria.

Mr Bland was aware of another dog which died after swimming in the Tukituki river recently and wanted to use his experience to warn other pet and stock owners of the risks.

"We were working on a maimai at this lake and I had two dogs with me. The youngest one, Tess, went into the water playing. A few days later she was sick and died.

"She died overnight at the vet's and they said she may have had a bacteria that attacked her pancreas.

"I would also like the regional council to do more work to let people know of the risk.

"There are a whole lot of school kids that also swim in that [Tukituki] river and we need to know if they're at risk as well."

In January Hawke's Bay Today told the story of the Reynolds family of Havelock North who took their labrador Billy for his daily walk along the stop bank next to Te Mata Mangateretere Rd.

He went into a stagnant pool to cool down and later collapsed with paralysis before having to be put down the next morning.

At the time VetEnt Havelock North veterinarian Heather Boaler said her research pointed towards algae poisoning.

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