by Russel Norman
On a rainy Sunday I embarked on stage 3 of my Rivers Tour, on the Wairoa River in Clevedon (just east of Auckland).
The Wairoa is threatened by agricultural runoff and poorly maintained septic tanks. Around three quarters of tests on the Wairoa show faecal contamination above safe levels for swimming or contact recreation. Disturbingly, the Auckland Regional Council rated this result as ”fair”, and rated the Wairoa as 13 out of 27 rivers for water quality.
We assembled in the driving rain at the Clevedon wharf reserve. It was raining so hard and the river was so swollen that we weren’t sure if it would go ahead.
But after a good look at the river we decided that it was safe and the dozen or so of us headed off.
Wally, from the Manukau Canoe Club lent us some kayaks and led us down the river.
The Wairoa’s headwaters are in the Hunua Ranges, where it is dammed to provide drinking water for Auckland, so it starts pretty clean. It then flows north past Clevedon into the Hauraki Gulf, as it flows north it picks up pollution.
The nitrogen levels in the Wairoa are around 50% above levels to maintain healthy lowland river ecosystem and the phosphorous levels around double what they should be to stop nuisance algal growth. Some places of the river have fences to keep out the animals, but many places don’t, as appears to be the case in the photo below.
There is a Landcare group that is working to get more fencing and riparian planting but it still has some way to go, and some are resisting. How to deal with the septic tanks is contested – some say enforce rules on maintaining septic tanks and others want reticulated sewerage.
The river was threatened with a canal village development but Ngai Tai Umupuia and local environmental groups saw if off, at considerable cost to themselves.
We pulled out down river at the cruising club before heading off to the Log Cabin for coffee – it was too wet for the planned BBQ.
Forest and Bird are organising a trip on the river so join them if you want to have a look. Hopefully the rain won’t be quite so heavy! The Wairoa is a great river, it’s just pretty polluted. With a bit of work it could be cleaned up to be even better. But even now it is well worth a paddle.
Thanks to all the team who came out in the rain and supported us or came on the river. Thanks especially Dave, Wally and Babs for making the trip possible. And remember it’s all about kids like Balin: