Home' Central District Times : December 6th 2011 Contents 8 CENTRAL DISTRICT TIMES, DECEMBER 6, 2011
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Rangitikei river forum established
It flows quietly past without causing much of a stir yet it is
important to many who live around it. Rangitikei people are proud
of their river and are learning lessons from neighbours in
Manawatu about how to treat it. Emma Goodwin talks to some
people who are making a concerted effort to not let things go from
bad to worse.
We’re never going to get it back to what it was 150
years ago. We just don’t have the money.
Rangitikei Mayor Chalky Leary
Pride of place: Rangitikei people are proud of the river and their district council wants to keep it that way.
Rangitikei people are proud of the river and
their district council wants to keep it that
To avoid a situation similar to the conflict
over the Manawatu River, the council has
made a pre-emptive strike for democracy and
talked to its community about its
hopes and fears for the river.
The timing could not be better
because the council is in the process of
setting its district plan, and with the
information it receives from the com-
munity it will be in a good position to
get things right.
The first step has been to form a
Rangitikei River Forum, which the
council is quick to point out is very
different from the Manawatu River
‘‘It’s all about what the people want.
We have been told by people that they
didn’t believe there was sufficient work
being done around the river and that it
was not being considered as an entity
as it should – not just about pollution,
but the river as a whole,’’
Rangitikei mayor Chalky Leary
The Rangitikei River Forum is
not intended to operate in the
same way as the Manawatu
River Leaders’ forum.
Rangitikei River Forum chairman
Chris Shenton said that success
around the river comes down to people.
‘‘It is not organisations that are driv-
ing the Rangitikei River Forum but
people, working from the ground up on
what we as a community value and see
This was made obvious by the num-
ber of people who showed up for a trial
meeting in Taihape last year.
‘‘We and Horizons [regional council]
had a forum in Taihape last year
because councils not only legally have
to consult and confer with the com-
munity, but they also have to prove
that they have,’’ Mr Leary said.
‘‘We sent out invites to people who
had an interest and we were surprised
by how many people turned up.
‘‘One of the things they told us was
that they, the people, didn’t believe
there was sufficient work being done
around the river.’’
Implementing the river forum was
the next step and again this meeting
had a huge turnout.
‘‘There [were] about 150 people but
with all the fuss about the Manawatu
[river] there was a great deal of interest from
the farming community as they thought it
was a threat to livelihoods and they thought it
was going to be about making rules.
‘‘There was a strong contingent from the jet-
boating fraternity too.’’
Mr Leary said the issues with the
Rangitikei River are different to those of the
Manawatu’s because the district does not
have the same amount of dairying and big
towns upstream as the Manawatu River.
But that does not mean the locals are not
‘‘Prevention is so much better than cure and
we don’t want to to get to the state of the
Manawatu before we do something about it.
‘‘Yes, we have issues with Taihape sewage
outfalls as historically we have always
discharged to water, so we have to ensure that
discharge is not damaging the river. We are
trying hard with our consents and things have
improved, but we want to do better,’’ Mr Leary
At the forum Horizons environmental scien-
tist Maree Clark gave an overview of the
water quality in the Rangitikei.
There are eight major point source dischar-
ges within the Rangitikei catchment.
These sites are monitored by Horizons once
a month for water quality indicators including
nutrients, E. coli (bacteria from faecal matter)
Generally E. coli is not a major issue, how-
ever in the lower reaches of the river it is not
as good as it should be.
Soluble inorganic nitrogen is a problem
around Taihape and the lower reaches of the
river, with similar issues with dissolved reac-
Since 2005 invertebrate life in the waters
around Taihape has gone from good to poor.
This is because of excessive periphyton
growth (green algae), reducing habitat.
‘‘The key causes of water quality degra-
dation were: point source sewage discharge,
intensive farming, hill country erosion, indus-
trial discharge, septic tank discharge, leaking
or seepage,’’ Ms Clarke said.
Agricultural consultant Gary Massicks said
that while there was no doubt that farmers
did have an impact on the environment, there
had been some positive advances in environ-
Horizons’ farm strategy on hill country and
tree planting, significant advances in effluent
treatment, and the 2003 Dairying and Clean
Streams Accord between Fonterra, the Minis-
try for the Environment and the Ministry of
Agriculture were just three mentioned.
‘‘We need to take care of the land, the asset.
If we improve it it is better for agricultural
production and profitability.
‘‘If we wreck it it is unsustainable,’’ Mr
Mr Leary said that the council was looking
to better manage the river so it does not
He said Rangitikei District Council wanted
to work alongside authorities such as
Horizons and not have discussions over non-
compliance like those that Palmerston North
City Council got in to with Horizons.
‘‘It’s a shame that PNCC and Horizons got
to that and that there are barrows all over the
place that people want to push.
‘‘It’s quite sad.
‘‘We work hard with Horizons and their
expertise to try and not get to that stage.’’
Mr Leary said there had to be a balance
between what could be done, what should be
done and what was impossible.
He didn’t believe the river would be
returned to a pristine condition.
‘‘We’re never going to get it back to what it
was 150 years ago. We just don’t have the
Mr Shenton said the river was a gauge for
the community, a barometer of environmental
He believed biodiversity was an important
issue, and that there was lots of good work
going on locally, such as that done by the
Rangitikei Environment Group on the control
of Old Man’s Beard.
‘‘It is often felt that agriculture is made the
scapegoat, and this is a key chal-
‘‘We need greater understanding,
education and communication.
‘‘However, anything we do needs to
have a strong level of commitment
and be community-driven. Initiatives
that come from the ground up, that are
community- driven, take both time and com-
mitment to work.’’
Which is why the forum was for people, not
‘‘We need all stakeholders to work together
and get involved, to focus on the river in itself,
because we probably all want the same thing,
which is a sustainable river environment –
whether that is economically, socially,
culturally or recreationally.’’
So in Mr Shenton’s view, what would be
seen as success?
‘‘A measurable improvement in the state of
water quality and biodiversity, plus meeting
the cultural, social, economic and recreation
wellbeing of our community.’’
Mr Leary said talking to the community
about what it wants, how it perceives the
river and what it considers valuable is an
important step in ensuring the district plan
has elements that please everyone.
The next step would be considering
submissions made about the district plan.
‘‘There will be some bearing on the outcome
of the river through that,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s about trying to get a balance between
the all-dairying-is-bad and all-trees-are-good
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