Topic: Water

Floating poop to send message to Govt about state of NZ rivers

By Tepara Koti
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty
ActionStation's Laura O'Connell Rapira - Photo/supplied

A group of ActionStation members are set to swim with giant inflatable poop emojis at Lake Ohakuri, north of Lake Taupō in a call to government to "cut the crap" in New Zealand rivers.

The "water defenders" will take to the lake with 50 of the poop floaties intended as a funny, light-hearted action to a serious issue facing the state of our nation's waterways.  The event will happen while the National Party's conference in Taupō is taking place.

ActionStation members together with Choose Clean Water have been demanding action to clean up our rivers for over a year.  They say they want government to take decisive action to clean up our rivers and make them truly swimmable.

Last week ActionStation sent a crowd-sourced submission on the proposed Freshwater National Policy Statement, which they believe "muddies the waters when it comes to swimmable standards and would allow more fecal matter in rivers".

The latest report from the Ministry of Environment and Statistics New Zealand on New Zealand's rivers and lakes, "Our fresh water 2017", confirmed:

- nitrogen levels are getting worse at 55% of monitored river sites across Aotearoa

- of the 39 native fish species MfE report on, 72% are either threatened or at risk of extinction

- E.coli levels are 22 times higher in urban areas and 9.5 times higher in pastoral rivers compared with rivers in native forest areas

ActionStation Campaigner Rick Zwaan confirmed that local iwi were consulted before the event was set in place.  He says, "Our campaign director Laura O'Connell Rapira was the one who reached out to iwi.  It was a mix of us trying to get in touch with local Māori and Tūwharetoa and them getting in touch with us.  We've had a rapid turnaround on this making the decision to do the action on Tuesday."

It was explained to ActionStation members that after consultation with the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board (the kaitiaki or guardians of Lake Taupō), ActionStation agreed to move the event to a different lake.  That local iwi were not happy about their lake being associated with the imagery of poop, which ActionStation agreed with.

ActionStation also advised their members the importance of the Māori worldview regarding awa (rivers) being considered tīpuna (ancestors) and that it is not appropriate to float fake poop upon them.

They said that the event is taking place at Lake Ohakuri which is an artificial lake, but also part of the Waikato River system, therefore fitting for their cause as the mighty Waikato is one of the most polluted waterways in Aotearoa.