Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) reassures residents that the water quality in local river swimming spots is not as bad as painted by a Ministry of Environment (MFE) report.
Chris Fowles, a scientific officer for TRC, explained how TRC's thorough measurement and monitoring programme is a better indication of water quality than the hypothetical risks measured in the MFE report. Wouldn't it be much better to look at the actual data that we produce each season? The MFE report grades individual sites on a scale using ratings of very good. good, poor or very poor. Locally, two sites have been graded as very poor the Patea River at the King Edward Scout Den, Stratford, and the Waingongoro River at Eltham Presbyterian Camp. So should we not use these popular sites for recreation? Chris suggests people look at the live data on the TRC website, which uses a traffic light system to show if individual sites are at safe levels between November and March when most people are in contact with these streams and rivers. Chris says that it is not a good choice to use the water after a wet weather event because this causes run off, meaning that the water will be polluted by rainwater coming off the ground around it.
The MFE risk assessment method of grading our waterways can't identify individual occurences such as stock crossings or an illegal discharge, which is why TRC believes its water data gives a better indicator of the health of local streams and rivers.
According to the MFE, swimming should be avoided in sites graded as fair if water is discoloured. Chris says people planning to use the water should be aware that faecal waste from birdlife is a major contaminant so swimming downstream from water popular with ducks or pukekos should be avoided. Signage is erected if TRC identifies a water quality issue.
TRC prosecutes those it finds to be causing contamination. Chris urges anyone who sees someone misusing waterways to call the TRC pollution line.