Whanganui River could be unsafe to swim in this summer

By Leah Te Whata
  • North Island: West Coast

People of Whanganui are calling on the government to keep their promise of cleaning up New Zealand's rivers.

This comes after one of Whanganui's favourite swimming spots at Pīpīriki was deemed unsafe for swimming by the Horizons Regional Council due to high levels of E.coli in the water.

Te Ātihaunui-ā-Pāpārangi, Ngā Paerangi Ashley Patea says, "We are the river and the river is us, so we must revive our river because all the things that affect the river also affect us as descendants of the river."

Patea regularly keeps an eye on water quality.

Recent Horizons Safe Swim results at Pipiriki deemed it unsafe for swimming.

"If Horizons put restrictions in place recommending we don't swim in our river, that affects our connection with the water."

A keen swimmer told Te Kāea that he wouldn't be deterred, even if council recommendations were put in place, "If the water is dirty we still swim because it's so hot and we don't care if it has cow poo in it and other stuff."

High temperatures are expected over the summer period and Pipiriki is where many of the locals come to cool off.

But the Horizons Regional Council say they're likely to post up health and safety advisories on the water toxic levels.

Horizons Regional Council's Nicola Patrick says, "I think it's almost certain that we're going to get some of those red results, and part of the challenge with the results is they're always a few days late, they take a few days for the tests to go through the lab."

Minister for the Environment David Parker tells Te Kāea that the government is committed to cleaning New Zealand's rivers to a swimmable standard and a national policy statement is expected next year.

“We remain absolutely committed to swimmable rivers.  We will be promulgating a new National Policy Statement next year. It then follows a statutory process under the Resource Management Act,” says Parker.

With the 30th annual iwi river trip Te Tira Hoe Waka due to take place in January, a primary focus will be on the wellbeing of both the river and of it's people.