Talking on Water 8: The Waitara River

Thanks to major investment by industry, communities and councils, water quality in the lower Waitara River is the best it has been for decades.

Talking on Water cartoon 8.

There has been no discharge of sewerage waste or industrial wastewater to the Waitara River since 1978, apart from periods during system upgrades. Prior to that, the river was grossly polluted by town sewage and untreated wastewater and material from the meatworks. The river often ran red with discharges from the meatworks.

Further improvements can be expected thanks to increased riparian management upstream, the switch to land-based disposal of dairy shed effluent, and wiser management of our steep inland hill country.

Coming clean on Waitara

Water quality in the lower Waitara River and the coastal environment is the best it has been for generations.

There has been no discharge of sewerage waste or industrial wastewater to the Waitara River since the first ocean outfall was constructed in 1978, apart from periods during upgrades. Prior to that the river was grossly polluted by town sewage and untreated wastewater and material from the meatworks. The river often ran red with discharges from the meatworks.

The councils and community, through major investments, have continued to bring about water quality improvements through public resource consent processes.

Since 1999, when wastewater from Inglewood township was first diverted to the New Plymouth carrousel plant, there has been almost no discharge of treated domestic wastewater to surface water in the Waitara catchment.

Water quality in the lower reaches of the Waitara River is typical of any river that has a significant proportion of its catchment in developed farmland, particularly dairying.

But there have been significant improvements in the last 30 years to reduce the impacts of agriculture on the Waitara River.

The impact on water quality from runoff from farmland is being addressed by the Council's riparian programme and the uptake of the programme with farmers fencing and planting stream banks is beginning to reduce the quantity of contaminants carried into the river. The requirement for farmers to switch to land-based disposal of dairy shed effluent will bring about further improvements.

The river is a popular spot for locals wanting to cool down during the hot summer months. The Council’s water quality monitoring at the popular town wharf showed that over the seven summers to 2016/2017, 95% of samples met the MfE recreational guidelines. This indicates that when conditions are appealing and people are likely to be swimming, the Waitara River almost always meets the health guidelines for safe swimming.