The recent Downer Masters Games showcased the many great sporting venues Whanganui can be proud of, and our river should be at the top of the list.

I wasn't competing (and yes, I am of age), but I was involved over several days on the river with the kayaking and the open water swim.

Hundreds of competitors were competing on and in the river, whether it be swimming, triathlon, waka ama, kayaking, rowing or yachting.

It was great seeing the passion, and the buzz that they still got out of participating in sports. The sports and recreation that still provide them with the satisfaction of achievement.

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While waiting for an unfortunate soul to be rescued by myself on the safety boat, I thought of the publicity around water quality.

The river looked fantastic, far from the poisonous wastepipe many environmental campaigners would like us to be believe it is.

As a society we are exposed to a barrage of emotive rhetoric, about how it is unsafe to swim in our rivers.

There are very few facts used and often what science is quoted is skewed to support an agenda.

What is never acknowledged is the progress that has been achieved cleaning up our waterways.

Any local Masters Games rower could provide a graphic account of what they encountered on their morning training 30 years ago.

The river used to be viewed as a convenient waste pipe. Wastewater either entered the river directly or via the outlets of basic settling ponds for human and animal effluent.

Now, Whanganui has a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant and every dairy farm has in the Horizons Regional Council region upgraded to land-based spreading of treated effluent.

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It is horrifically expensive, just ask any dairy farmer or Whanganui ratepayer.

There are many more big bills to face, 80 per cent of cities and towns in New Zealand are non-compliant with their regional council's sewage and stormwater regulations.

We can still do better, and it is every individual's and organisation's responsibility.

Like the Master Games competitor, it's often not easy reaching the finish line.

But they know the importance of celebrating their achievements to boost their motivation for their next challenge.

Mike Cranstone is the Federated Farmers Whanganui provincial president.