Water quality

What exactly does “swimmable” mean?

I have given Nick Smith some stick over the last couple of weeks for not letting sleeping dogs lie. ?Part of the problem is that the new standards for what constitutes a ‘swimmable’ waterway are, on the face of it, worse than what we had before.

Ministers Dr Nick Smith and Nathan Guy recently announced the goal that 90 percent of our rivers and lakes would be “swimmable” by 2040. Critics accused them of doubling the allowable levels of faecal bacteria and coming up with a definition of swimmable that means it’s OK for one in 20 people to get sick. Dr Smith responded by calling that “junk science”. What’s going on here?

Previous water quality guidelines had separate criteria for swimming and other activities. A river or lake was graded an A for swimming if tests for the E. coli bacterium came back with less than 260 bacteria per 100 ml of water 95 percent of the time.

The criteria for an A for other activities was less strict; the median (middle) value of all the tests taken over a year needed to be less than 260 bacteria per 100 ml. A river or lake got a B if the values were 260-540 E. coli, a C if they were 540-1000 and a D if they were over 1000. So, under the old guidelines, some of our lakes or rivers could easily have an A for water sports but a B (or no rating at all) for swimming.

In the government’s new policy document (‘Clean Water’ – PDF, 3.68MB), the threshold number of E. coli has been set at 540 bacteria per 100 ml of water. Now to get a blue (“excellent”) rating, the water must have less than 540 E. coli for 95 percent of the time.

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Nick Smith and his bullshit over water will cost National votes

Looks swimmable to me

Nick Smith?has tits for hands. Everything he touches turns out to be a disaster.

His latest cock-up is to change the goal posts on water?quality and raise the nutrient allowances while claiming at the same time that he has cut them in half.

If I was a water campaigner I’d find a body of water that meets his swimmable standard and that is also a health hazard and challenge the dickhead to have a swim in it.

That is precisely what has happened.

A waterway that Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith once deemed “impossible” to improve to a swimmable condition would be?considered swimmable under proposed new standards.

Several other waterways ? including dry shingle beds?and rivers with toxic algal blooms?? would also meet the swimmable standard, despite clearly being unsuitable for swimming. ? Read more »

Want a total backfire? Put Nick Smith on the job

Minister for Magic, Nick Smith waved his blue wand and wadeable rivers miraculously turned into ones you can swim in.

All it takes is a little fiddling with the standards.

This week Smith made a brave promise that 90 per cent of rivers would be swimmable by the year 2040. Read more »

It appears that the science isn’t settled between scientists either

Chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Authority - Jacqueline Rowarth / via ODT

Chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Authority – Jacqueline Rowarth / via ODT

Have a guess, just with a gut feel… do you think the Waikato river is one of world’s TOP FIVE cleanest rivers?

A stoush between leading scientists has bubbled to the surface over the state of the Waikato river.

Last month, the newly appointed chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Authority, Jacqueline Rowarth, drew the ire of some scientists when she announced the river was in the top five cleanest rivers in the world.

Ms Rowarth, wearing her former hat as a Waikato University agribusiness professor, reportedly made her comments to 180 farmers at a Primary Land Users Group meeting on 3 October.

But the Freshwater Sciences Society said her comments were wrong.

The Society’s president Marc Schallenberg said Ms Rowarth is basing her statements on nitrate data released by the OECD over the 2002 to 2004 period.

He said that data, which samples about 100 rivers worldwide, shows the Waikato sat in the top 5 percent of rivers then.

Top 5 of the 100 chosen. ?Not top 5 of all rivers. ?That makes a difference. ? Read more »

Mike Williams on the stupidity of Peter Butler

Mike ‘Fat Tony’ Williams has been having a blinder these past few weeks.

Of course, he has been helped by the stupidity of Hawkes Bay local body candidates or outgoing mayors.

It’s obvious that the retiring Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor, Peter Butler, doesn’t read my weekly musings in Hawke’s Bay Today.

Had he bothered to do so he would have known that a powerful factor in local election success is name recognition.

Not long ago there was reference to the fact that when voters are confronted with long lists of candidates they will very often opt for a name they know.

Peter Butler’s attempt to make sitting regional councillor Tom Belford reveal his email and telephone records for a 17day period last month amounts to a timely and very valuable gift to Councillor Belford.

It put him on the front page of Hawke’s Bay Today just when the Hawke’s Bay electors are filling in their voting papers.

It’s hard to comprehend what possessed Mayor Butler.

His “official request” for Tom Belford’s telephone and email traffic was never going to be fulfilled before the local polls closed and even if this showed Mr Belford communicated with all of the people and organisations on Butler’s list, who cares?

It would only demonstrate that Councillor Belford was doing his job.

Peter Butler would not comment on why he had requested the information. We can only suppose that he’s a secret supporter of Tom Belford.

The Hawke’s Bay local elections are more interesting than those going on in Auckland.

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Dodgy Dam business case in disarray

The dodgy socialist dam business case is in disarray after the HBRC decided to shelve plans to buy their own water…for now.

Last Thursday, five members of the Regional Council shelved ? at least for now ? the proposal for ratepayers to purchase $36.9 million of water from the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS).

The lack of any evidence-based case whatsoever for this purchase, plus the opposition of nearly 150 submitters (as against 9 in favour), convinced all but Councillors Debbie Hewitt, Christine Scott and Dave Pipe to effectively table the proposition. Those three persisted that the proposition was a good ?deal?.


Some interesting considerations came to light during submissions and the ensuing debate.

First, in reviewing nearly 200 submissions on all aspects of the HBRC?s work, councillors considered numerous requests for funding, in amounts from $5,000 to $300,000. I can say without hesitation that we received far more substantiation for these requests that we did for HBRIC?s $36 million pitch! And we ? not happily in many of those cases ? rejected most of them. Not for their lack of merit, but to protect the ratepayer?s purse.

Second, the discussions underscored the absence?of thought behind the purchase proposition. At one point in his verbal submission, Garth Eyles asked, if the proposal were approved, how water was actually to be supplied to Lake Hatuma (the one example supporters have given as to how enhanced flows might be used). The silence was deafening ? no one could answer! Later, during debate, Councillor Scott offered?her own cost calculations, arguing that the water purchase would ?only? cost $23 million ? which merely underscored the argument of skeptics ? the half-baked proposition is so poorly conceived there?s not even agreement on its cost to ratepayers!

Third, while HBRIC argued that additional ?environmental flows? were hugely important for HBRC to have in its mitigation toolkit, it turns out that these flows could not have priority over the irrigation agreements already signed with 196 or so farmers, since their contracts already promise them the higher priority use of the water. In other words, the supposedly crucial extra environmental flows would play second fiddle to irrigation. One might protest: Who gave HBRIC the authority to make that call on priorities and negotiate away the environment?s right to water?!

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Greens trying to out-Green the National party


Poor Nick Smith.? He’s created water standards where there were none, and all the Greens can do is tell him he’s not doing a good job.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith is defending the Government’s track record on cleaning up New Zealand’s rivers, saying it’s done more to improve water quality than any previous government.

It comes after the Green Party launched a major new environmental campaign at its annual conference in Christchurch over the weekend targeting 10 of the country’s dirtiest rivers, including the Waikato, Tukituki and Manawatu rivers. Read more »

What?s the first thing you do when you get married? Clean up 10 rivers?

Although cleaner rivers are something that the Greens and I are on the same page about, strategically you have to question why this is their first public campaign immediately after getting into bed with Labour.

The Green Party wants to clean up 10 of New Zealand’s most polluted rivers and make them safe to swim in again.

At the party’s annual conference in Christchurch on Sunday, co-leader Metiria Turei launched the campaign and attacked the Government’s track record on the environment, saying National had given up on clean rivers.

“Rivers can be clean enough to swim in, but only if the Government lifts its ‘wadeable’ standards and demands they be swimmable instead,” Ms Turei said.

“Under National nearly two-thirds of our rivers are unsafe for swimming. New Zealand needs a government to back our rivers and to stop defending polluters.”

As part of the campaign, the Greens have targeted 10 dirty rivers up and down the country – including the Waikato, Tukituki and Manawatu rivers.

MPs will be hitting the road to highlight what’s threatening the rivers – from over-intensification of dairying and sewerage to industrial pollution – and what can be done to help clean them up and protect them.

Read more »

Public Notice


Banded Kokopu in the Puhinui Stream, by Stephen-Moore, Forest and Bird

Long time readers will know water quality and clean waterways is an issue close to Whaleoil’s dark, necrotic, acid filled heart.


Is New Zealand ?Clean and Green??

At one time the Puhinui Stream in Manukau was called the food basket of Tamapahore, a chief and ancestor of Manurewa, as the waterway fed the ancestors of the region. The stream and its waterways hold a special significance in Maori culture.

What has become of it now? Read more »

Surely the Chief Justice should follow the law?

You’d think if you were the Chief Justice you’d make sure that any enterprise that you were a shareholder/owner of would be following the law…not in this country though.

A South Island farm owned by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias has been complained about before, with witnesses describing repeated incidents of cattle and sheep wading in lakes.

A past complainant described the farmer as “riding roughshod” over the concerns of other people using the area, and witnessed a “disturbing amount of cow s…” in another lake at the property.

Holidaymaker Allan Brown photographed cattle drinking in Lake Taylor, about 50 kilometres northwest of Hawarden, last week. He had since lodged a complaint with Environment Canterbury (ECan).

His picture, which had been widely shared online, showed the animals were on Lakes Station land.

Elias and her businessman husband, Hugh Fletcher, were the majority owners?of the 5000-hectare high country farm.

Fletcher told RNZ he let the cows into the lake on hot days, but their access was not continuous. ? Read more »