Swimmable Kerikeri River?

Water Pollution in the North

Inge Bremer, Dec 31, 2020

“Swimming not advised” says NRC’s sign at the pier by the Stone Store. NRC’s CEO replied to my recent inquiry “The source tracking results have shown the faecal contamination at the Stone Store is avian source.” NRC’s website states that swimming at the Rainbow Falls is safe (sample from 12th Dec), but no samples are taken at the Stone Store because the long term average shows it as unsafe.

On Dec 18 we counted only a total of 50 geese and ducks at the Mission House and doubted that NRC’s blaming them for the pollution with E. coli in such a rather voluminous river was justified. So we took water samples at the Golf Club bridge, the Stone Store bridge, and the Stone Store pier (right beside the sign that says that swimming is not advisable due to bacterial contamination). Surprising result from Far North Lab in Taipa: the samples came up as suitable for swimming with E. coli counts of 270 (pier), 112 (Golf Course bridge), and 88 (Stone Store bridge). The admissible count is 540 presently (raised from 260 about 3 years ago). We paid for the tests on behalf of Vision Kerikeri.

First Published in the Northland Age - 31 Dec 2020

Since the e.coli count is low enough for the river to be swimmable with the water fowl being present, they cannot really be the cause of the higher e-coli levels at other times. There must be some other cause.

A resident next to the waste water collection basin and pumping station at Tuatahi Place told us that the concrete waste water tank between her house and the river sometimes stinks to high haven. Transfield Services empties the tank from time to time - maybe not often enough? Or could it be that floodwater causes the tank to overflow sometimes?

During the past few years we repeatedly approached NRC and FNDC to clarify the reason for sometimes substantially higher pollution level at the Stone Store compared to the Rainbow Falls (eg Jan 23, 2017 after the big rainfall on the previous day NRC measured E. coli of 3076 at the Rainbow Falls and 9804 at the Stone Store) without ever getting a response other than pointing to the other Council. Without any cattle farms along the 5km river banks we suspect non-functioning septic tanks or the like.

The NRC CEO further states that their sampling at selected river location “are generally not designed to investigate potential contamination sources, for this we run other more targeted programmes.” Without apparent success at the Kerikeri River?

We expect NRC and FNDC to finally investigate the real cause/s of pollution and take steps to stop it as well as to re-commence the regular water testing at the Stone Store Basin to enable swimming when the water is sufficiently clean.

So much could be gained from a very big Kororipo Basin swimming pool surrounded by the newly restored Te Ahurea (old Rewas Village), the Stone Store, the Plough and Feather and the Honey House Cafe: biffing up domestic tourism and improving the local leisure time! Merry Xmas!

Author, Inge Bremer, for Vision Kerikeri.

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