Sunday, March 1, 2015

It’s elemental: a toast to Te Awa Kairangi

Feeding the flames beside the Hutt River
The invitation came out of the blue: “FIRE AND WATER ... A celebration of community and river at Whakamoonie (the official signs call it Poet’s Corner - guess someone's exercising poetic license to rename this spot on the Hutt River between the Whakatikei River and the Moonshine Bridge).

In any case, Friends of the Hutt River were “providing an opportunity to enjoy yourselves down at the Hutt River.... There will be BBQ and bonfire.  Stone skimming and stone throwing. … Greater Wellington [regional council] will provide information on progress on understanding the cyanobacteria problem.”

- Hah, there’s the catch, entice people along with inducements of fun and free food, then whack them round the face with the serious stuff: “This is your river – it’s deteriorating, badly”.

The elements were simple enough:
·    a talk from a ranger on how to identify that dastardly cyanobacteria algae – the dark brown/black stuff will kill dogs and maim people (well ok, officially the line is: ‘can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and mouth, and if swallowed, can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cramps and nausea”).
·    a swim (even if there was a bit of cyanobacteria up river)
·    floating paper boats, and a home-made raft made of planks strapped together over a couple of steel drums
·    a good, old NZ gas BBQ – brought down to the stones in the back of someone’s van
·    wrapped up by toasting marshmallows over an open fire (yes it was permitted) in the bottom part of a steel drum.

From the ranger we learnt that many of the nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) feeding into the Hutt River are entering through groundwater.  The causes? Not so sure on that. Probably things like stormwater, fertilizers and chemicals used on farms, lawn and garden, urban runoff. (No doubt, some of the chemicals used by Council Parks departments also contributes a share).

So, some serious long-term things to consider – and Friends of the Hutt River will continue to work on the council to understand and fix levels of toxicity of the river, as well as monitor river flows. But the main purpose of this afternoon was to enjoy what we have, even it is currently less than perfect.

Yes, a simple formula of fire and water to toast the River Hutt/Te Awa Kairangi – ‘the river of great value’. Let’s try to keep it that way; and make it better and safer than it currently is.

Read more:
Friends of the Hutt River - Facebook page

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