The Tribune (NZ) - - OPINION -

The front page story in last week’s Tribune re­gard­ing the hor­ren­dous pol­lu­tion of the vast pro­por­tion of our fresh wa­ter makes me won­der how peo­ple will ever know if their favourite stream, river or lake is safe to swim in or not. With such high lev­els of con­tam­i­na­tion be­ing com­mon, it’s high time that proper sign­posted warn­ing of the dan­gers be placed in all the ar­eas pol­lu­tion oc­curs.

I trav­elled the whole of the Manawatu River Path­way and there is only one gen­eral sign about pol­lu­tion, de­spite the fact that Hori­zons rated the river as a health risk (red flagged) for both peo­ple and pets on the same day.

The sign re­ferred to a web­site and was not easy to un­der­stand for non-English speak­ers, and did not pro­vide in­for­ma­tion as to the health risk rat­ing at the time.

I have also seen chil­dren bathing in a beach­side stream that was also clas­si­fied by Hori­zons as a health risk, obliv­i­ous to the dan­gers they faced, with­out a sign in sight. Some­how we can pro­vide many fire dan­ger rat­ing signs that change daily but ones that re­fer to the health risk level of our rivers and lakes seems to be be­yond us.The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple don’t re­alise that the lit­tle stream that looks so invit­ing on a hot sum­mer day, is go­ing to make them or their chil­dren sick or, in ex­treme cases, as has hap­pened, kill their pets.

Over­seas vis­i­tors would never ex­pect such a hor­ri­fy­ing level of pol­lu­tion in a coun­try that projects it­self as clean and green, and with the lack of any health warn­ings, just as­sume it’s safe to swim. Af­ter all, thou­sands swim in the Rhine and other large Euro­pean rivers, with mil­lions liv­ing on their shores, so who would ex­pect lit­tle Horse­shoe Bend in sparsely pop­u­lated New Zealand to be a risk?

Any­where else in the de­vel­oped world peo­ple ex­pect to see sig­nage in­di­cat­ing the level and type of pol­lu­tion in wa­ter­ways. It’s time we de­manded the same for all our wa­ters.

Gavin Roache Palmer­ston North

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