Eugenie Sage
Silver Fern Farms fails the Waimakariri River

[UPDATED]

Silver Fern Farms Ltd’s recent application to Environment Canterbury to discharge treated meatworks waste(3500 cubic meters per day) including fat and faecal matter into the Waimakariri River highlights why we need change of Government . We need the stronger national bottomlines for water quality and a network of protected rivers as the Green Party proposes.

Over recent decades there have been gains in phasing out direct discharges to our rivers including a long campaign during the 1980s and 1990s to stop discharges from the Belfast freezing works into the Waimakariri. Silver Fern Farms wants to turn the clock back to the bad old days. The company’s meatworks effluent and wastewater is generally pumped to the Christchurch City Council’s wastewater treatment plant at Bromley but when the Council plant is at capacity, such as during heavy rain events, it is unable process all the meatworks effluent.

Waimakariri River, South Bank near regional park

The City Council’s planned repairs of the Pages Road pumping station and its pipe network should help. But Silver Fern Farms needs to have an adequate emergency backup for when the Bromley Plant is at capacity so that it does not need to discharge into the Waimakariri. This could include increasing its storage pond capacity beyond the current four days to hold effluent until it can be treated at Bromley, or changing its processing to reduce the volume of wastewater. Company profits should not come before clean water.

The Waimakariri is a beautiful braided river with its headwaters in the snowfields of the Southern Alps in Arthur’s Pass National Park. It’s popular for jet boating and kayaking. It’s a major part of the Coast to Coast multi-sport event as competitors kayak from the Mt White Bridge near Arthur’s Pass through the dramatic Waimakariri Gorge. Near the river mouth (and below the discharge point) the river is popular for yachting and rowing training.

The Waimakariri is the closest of the major salmon rivers to Christchurch and Fish and Game’s national angler surveys show the Waimakariri as New Zealand’s most heavily fished river outside of the Taupo region. Generations of families have enjoyed favourite swimming holes on the river and the riverbank Waimakariri Regional Park is increasingly well used.

Despite all of these and other values, there is little in Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) regional plan for the Waimakariri which protects it against direct discharges or further water pollution. The Waimakariri is a potential candidate for the Greens’ network of protected rivers and would benefit from the stronger controls on discharges and takes which would apply to protected rivers.Waimakariri River

Recreational users are outraged by the discharges. A petition with over 2000 signatures was presented to ECan calling on the council to reject the Silver Fern Farms’ resource consent application. The Green Party stands beside everyone who wants a clean and healthy river that is safe for swimming.

Silver Fern Farm’s discharge could make the Waimakariri River unsafe for swimming because of faecal contamination. As Fish and Game has noted the recent “emergency” discharges have caused the river to become discoloured and degraded, with foul odours lingering. Other suggest these may come from council oxidation ponds downstream.

We’ve heard the excuses; they are not good enough. A healthy environment that all New Zealanders can enjoy is the basis of a healthy economy. New Zealanders want to be able to swim in rivers like the Waimakariri and ECan needs to listen.

See the company’s consent application here: http://www.silverfernfarms.com/news/belfastconsent

@EugenieSage

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