Swimming in 2015
Happy New Year. Welcome to 2015. We hope your swim adventures in 2015 are exciting, adventurous and safe in waters free from harmful pollutants. We wanted our first article of this year to be positive and inspiring for swimmers around the globe. We thought long and hard about discussing this topic as our first article of 2015. Although there is a negative context we decided that the quest for improved water quality and water standards is a positive and worthy start to the year.
In late 2014 FitandAbel NZ Ltd submitted to the commissioners appointed by the Canterbury Regional Council to hear the application by Silver Fern Farms Limited (SFF) to discharge treated industrial waste water into the Waimakariri river. It is not until you make clean water your business that you realise how much of a problem New Zealand has –
We opposed the SFF consent application on the grounds that the discharge of treated industrial waste into a major river system in any quantity in this day and age is irresponsible; socially, morally and environmentally. We are not kidding ourselves saying that SFF are the only ones saying it is ‘OK’.
The commissioners released their decision of the consent application on 20 December 2014. They approved it. The window to appeal ends 29 Jan 2015. Whether by design or by fault, this timeframe means most in a position to lodge an appeal at this point are on holiday, making an appeal extremely difficult. It’s an expensive process – we would likely go out of business following this appeal through the normal process.
There are some reasons why the commissioners have decided to grant the consent. They are trying to find a balance between business, a broken city sewage system, a need to clean up other fresh water locations (The Avon and Heathcote) and the wishes of the local populace. FitandAbel NZ has a number of concerns about the commissioners decision to grant the consent, not least the fact it green lights the dumping treated industrial waste into the Waimakarriri river due to ‘extraordinary events – the Christchurch earthquake of Feb 2011. You can read the entire report here http://ecan.govt.nz/news-and-notices/notices/hearingdecisions/decision-sff-191214.pdf
Our concerns regarding the Conditions of Consent include:
– The standards for E Coli. Dr Meredith of the Regional Council suggested that 100cfu / 100Ml … where as SFF sought a standard of 1000 cfu/100ml. 1,000 cfu/100ml has been approved. This exceeds our governments own standards for recreational fresh water. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/more/environmental-reporting/fresh-water/suitability-swimming-indicator/suitability-swimming and http://maps.ecan.govt.nz/WaterQuality/ (Ecan uses a trigger level of 550) .
– The only entities required to be formally notified of a discharge into the Waimakariri are Te Ngai Tuahuriri Rununga, the Canterbury District Health Board, the Waimakariri District Council, the Canterbury Regional Council and North Canterbury Fish and Game. We think this level of notification is inappropriate. It is not difficult to set up a database and river users could opt to provide their e-mail. An automated notification of a discharge could then be sent to them. Fisherman, kayakers, boaters, rowers, swimmers, surfers and in fact any interested party have a right to know.
– “At all times when the discharge is occurring temporary signs shall be erected where the public has access to the river at the Old Highway Bridge and within 300M downstream on both banks. The signs shall indicate the presence of treated industrial waste in that section of the river… shall be able to be read from a distance of at least 10 metres” That’s it. The total amount of public notification unless you communicate with one of the five organisations above. How about more signs? Some further downstream as well?
– Although there is a daily limit of 3,500 cubic meters there is no limit to the amount of days discharges are allowed to occur nor is there a list of consequences should the conditions of the consent be exceeded.
– The sole benefactor of this consent is Silver Fern Farms Limited at the expense of all other river users. We believe if a discharge goes ahead then a charge should apply. This should be paid into a trust established to improve the Waimakariri river system.
FitandAbel NZ Ltd believes New Zealand are more aware now than ever before of a need to balance the needs of business and the welfare and health of our amazing ‘backyard’. New Zealands waterways should be looked after and respected in balance with big business not at the expense of it.
What can you do in 2015 to make a difference?
In the matter of Silver Fern Farms application to discharge?
– Share this article with your friends. Discuss and educate yourselves and form a point of view. Become a voice.
– If you submitted as part of the consent process you have until 10 January to appeal. If you have funds and the legal know how we would love to chat. Please contact us email@example.com
– Write to the local members of parliament and mayors; feel free to share our article with them.
- Mayor of Waimakariri district firstname.lastname@example.org (note that Mayor David Ayers supported the consent application)
- Mayor of Christchurch email@example.com
- MP for Central Christchurch http://www.nickywagner.co.nz/index.php?/pages/contactform.html
- MP for Waimakariri district Matt Doocey firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Contacts: http://www.silverfernfarms.com/contact/make-an-enquiry
Wherever you are in the world is the water quality in your local district suitable for swimming? If not why not? We humans have a very ‘out of sight out of mind mentality. Open water swimmers are fast becoming the ‘canaries of the mine’ in respect of open water. If it’s polluted we find out about it pretty quickly when we get sick. What can you do to help improve a single waterway? One voice can make a difference. Make improving water quality part of your 2015 New Years resolution.