News & Blog

A clear winning advantage
27 February 2015

I was pretty proud when Sam Clark, of Virtually OnTrack Whakatane and Ohiwa video fame, came home a close second in the Coast to Coast race early in February. I have supported Sam in various ways over the years and in a small way felt his result was my result – as did much of the Eastern Bay Tri and Multisport Club. Having fellow Whakatane athlete Corinne Smit claiming fourth in the women’s race was a bonus that vouches strongly for the great training grounds our VOT gem provides.

Sam’s race was decided in the Waimakariri River; a cold (well it would be – that’s what the name means!) clear, twisting 67km of rapids and braids that is a majestic setting for a fabulous race.

But for all its appearances, and the fact it’s fed by snow melt, the Waimakariri is spoiled by pollution. The “Waimak” is afflicted with the charmingly (not!) named rock snot or Didymo to be precise which chokes up and kills the life in rivers over time.

That’s not something we want to see in the rivers, streams and lakes in our neck of the woods, so the Sams and Corinnes take the precaution of checking, cleaning and drying boats and paddling equipment that went south before launching them back into home waters.

While it’s easy to feel a bit smug about the didymo threat because we don’t have it in the North Island, it’s harder to look at our waterways and be totally happy that we are doing the best we can.

One of summer’s great delights in the Papamoa Hills gem, a plunge into the pools at the foot of Kaiate Falls, went off the menu just before Christmas. Testing by Toi Te Ora Public Health found unsafe levels of faecal coliforms (that’s poo in common language) in the stream and cautioned against swimming in it. The stream and falls still looked beautiful, but it was a case of “look, don’t touch.”

Unlike the Waimakariri pollution for which there is likely no cure, the problems in the Kaiate Stream can probably be reversed through good management of the area the water comes from. The Waitao Kaiate Landcare group has been trying to do that for a wee while now but clearly there’s still more work to do. Offers of help for such endeavours are seldom unwelcome.

While we’re at it, many others of the VOT gems and Bay of Plenty waterways in general could use a helping hand if they are to be kept at, or restored to, full health. Keeping good kayak (and fishing) hygiene is a good step to keep the likes of the Waioeka and Tarawera Rivers didymo free, but a few other places will need a bit more work to reverse the trend.

So check out the VOT clubs and groups listing to join a wetlands or catchment care group - you could be doing more than just saving the planet – you could also be making a great contribution to developing the next Sam Clark, Mike Dawson, Luuka Jones or Corinne Smit all of whom have used the clear, beautiful and relatively clean VOT gem rivers to learn their craft.

This post was written by

Steve Brightwell - who has written 17 posts

Steve Brightwell is a partnership ranger with the Department of Conservation.

He has been a part of the Virtually On Track team from the project's inception.

Steve lives in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has a communications background, and is a weekend warrior of modest multisport ability.

The views he expresses for this blog are his own and do not necessarily reflect or imply official policy of the Department of Conservation.

Comment on this post