Today I am heading to the north to travel on the Wairua River, the seventh river we’re visiting on the Swimmable Rivers campaign. The Wairua River, which flows into the Wairoa River and eventually the Kaipara Harbour, is one of many in the Northland region that are impacted by agriculture, gravel extraction, and forestry sediment. The Kaipara is a fish-spawning area fundamental for the survival of species such as snapper. The condition of the Wairua and other rivers is monitored by manawhenua and their most famous champion is my colleague Millan Ruka. Millan is a meticulous kaitiaki who documents the impact of cattle in the river or broken inadequate fencing and reports regularly to the Regional Council. He is often disappointed by the lack of response.
I spent a day with Millan a couple of years ago driving around his rohe. He showed me great work that local manawhenua are doing to support the eel population as well as some of the cattle still wading in the river. He showed me the sacred spring at Poroti that manawhenua are fighting to protect from exploitation by water bottlers and other users. Today we will travel on the river, meet with locals and the Regional Council and hold a public meeting to discuss the national water issues, regional water issues and the wellbeing of the Wairua River. I am so grateful to Millan and his community for their leadership work on fresh water, we just need to change the Government and back them up!