I’ve just been kayaking the final section of the Selwyn River before it flows into Canterbury’s largest lake – Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. Greens co-leader Russell Norman and MP Eugene Sage were keen to see the current state of this once clean river which was loved for fishing and swimming.
My Bushwise Women experience was called upon to give the safety briefing, kayaking tips and keep an eye on the novice paddlers and the Roaming Ecologist was keen to see the changes since her last visit.
The fishing used to be great…
Amongst our group was an old time fisherman who recalled with great sadness this formerly crystal clear river, with the Selwyn carrying 65,000 spawning trout in one season. In 2005 (the latest count) there was only 87 trout. As we neared the outlet to the lake the water became more and more opaque and a slimy green colour (from phytoplankton – algae) emphasizing what we know – i.e. that the The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere Research’s 2010 Lake Water Quality Report rated Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere as having the worst nutrient status of the 140 lakes measured.
The same story is repeated throughout the country. Changed land use in the catchment – intensification of dairying and cattle fattening, is a process more akin to manufacturing rather than farming.
In the case of the Selwyn catchment resource consents for extraction of water have already exceeded what the health of the river can provide and irrigation is set to expand with little mitigation or constraints on how to limit the nitrogen from urine entering the waterways.
As citizens we are not allowed to pour our sewage into the gutter to go into the streams. Thus why are those whom we elect to be our leaders not looking after our health by caring for one of our most vital assets – clean water for all and especially in Canterbury its wonderful aquifers.
So how do we get some traction around rivers and lakes and safeguarding for all (from the wants/greed of some) this vital life force? I guess as has been successful with other great movements – talk, lobby, organize and VOTE for those who care about the environment.