Last night Bill English was asked by Paddy Gower in the Leader’s Debate: “Which river did he swim in as a kid, and is it now polluted?” Bill English named the Oreti River, but did not answer whether it is now polluted, says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker.
“Sadly, the Oreti is now badly polluted. Its decline has been highlighted by Southland Fish & Game.
“The Oreti rises between Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau in northern Southland and flows into the sea at Invercargill.
“It takes a lot of pollution to degrade a big river like the Oreti, but it has happened.
“Mid-river tributaries like the Otapiri stream – with macroinvertebrate data going back decades – are close to dead.
“Appalling silt runoff from winter grazing pours into the middle reaches.
“Nutrient loads – especially nitrates - from intensive dairying are high in the middle and lower reaches.
“Large stretches of the river are now unsafe for swimming.
“The river flows into the sea in what is called the New River estuary, right next to Invercargill. Here it is now gumboot deep with silts. It used to have amongst the largest cockle beds in the country. They are dead, smothered with deep and sometimes smelly silt.
“The pollution extends out to sea. Filter feeders struggle to filter out the fine particles as they feed. The turbidity is reducing photosynthesis, so that seaweed does not grow well at depth and fish have less to eat.
“It is a tragedy. The Oreti is now badly polluted and that is why Bill English did not answer Paddy Gower’s question,” says David Parker.