Wildlife at risk due to river pollution

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The pollution of Gisborne's three rivers with human waste is an ongoing issue for locals in the region.  Local man Mātahi Brightwell says he is witnessing a collapsing ecosystem.

Brightwell has lived on the river for over 30 years. He says the local wildlife is in danger, in particular, the Kāruhiruhi.

“I don't see any Kāruhiruhi on the river fishing when the discharge comes, how can they feast in the filth? They can't,” says Brightwell.

When rainfall is heavy, the scours are opened and the raw sewerage is discharged into the Turanganui Rivers and the sea.

Director of Community Lifelines (Roads, Water, Rivers & Land Drainage) at the Gisborne District Council, David Wilson says, “The issue we have is how much rainwater is getting into that system that means we can't even get the wastewater and the rainwater to the plant to treat.”

This week saw the fourth time this year the sewer drains have been opened.  It's been four days since the last discharge and the condition of the water is evident.

Brightwell says, “When I came here in 1986, I noticed there was about forty regularly on the river, we're down to seven.  I put that down to the discharging in this river, destroying the cycle of life.”

Gisborne District Council says it's not the capacity of the water treatment plant, it's the infrastructure of individual households.

“We have full-time staff, we have a team that is going property to property... the big step for us for capacity is getting that rainwater out of the wastewater which will that the pipes are fit for purpose once the rainwater is out,” says Wilson.

The council says the upgrading of individual household plumbing is a solution that will take time to achieve.