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Polluted Piako River… and action!

Environment Waikato councillors are impressed with a film made by Ngatea Primary School students about the polluted Piako River.

“It encapsulates everything we’re trying to do and shows some farmers are doing very good work out there,” Cr Lois Livingston said.

“It will be very useful for us to have a copy for some of our presentations.”

The documentary, Polluted Piako, was made by year seven and eight students and won the national Kid Witness News Competiton, a video education programme run by Panasonic, last year.

It focuses on the causes of high pollution levels in the Piako River and shows how some environmentally-conscious farmers are tackling the problem. It won second prize at the Asia-Pacific regional Kid Witness News finals in Malaysia last December and is going forward to the international final in New York in May.

Environment Waikato programme manager resource use Alan Campbell, one of the people interviewed for the film, said it tackled an important issue.

“Working with farmers to make farming practices sustainable by reducing nutrient and effluent emissions into local waterways is one of the biggest challenges Environment Waikato is facing,” he said.

“It’s a complicated issue, but this documentary shows why it’s so important to do something about it.

“These children, who can no longer confidently swim in the Piako River due to pollution problems, are the generation that will benefit from the improvements in farm practices that are currently being developed by our leading farmers. It’s fantastic to see the students promoting such positive environmental messages.”

Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee viewed the documentary at its monthly meeting in Hamilton last week.

Environment Waikato water scientist Bill Vant said bacterial levels in about half the water samples taken from the Piako River over the past five years were at levels that made the river unsatisfactory to swim in.

Environment Waikato’s monitoring team is working to improve compliance with rules designed to minimise the impact of farm dairy effluent on our waterways. The council’s Clean Streams project is also encouraging farmers to fence and plant rivers and streams to keep stock out and improve water quality.

“These initiatives will reduce the amount of bacteria getting into the river, so a future generation of children will not be referring to the polluted Piako,” Mr Campbell said.

More information about water quality in the Piako River, and other waterways in the region, can be found on Environment Waikato’s website, www.ew.govt.nz.

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