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Hatea River water quality survey results

This page contains information about the Hatea River water quality survey results.
Updated: 27/06/2018 9:02 a.m.

How to help clean the river

A survey by the Otuihau Working group, set up to improve water quality in the Whangārei Falls area, shows about two thirds of the locals are concerned about water quality at Otuihau-Whangārei Falls and want to see it improved. 

The survey was carried out late last year by the Otuihau Working Group (including representatives from Northland Regional Council, Whangarei District Council, Pehiaweri Marae, Northland District Health Board, Tiki Pride and Whitebait Connection), which wanted to see if local people understood what was affecting the water in the river. 

The group was keen to see if its goals for Otuihau correspond with what the community wants and if people understood what part they could play to help improve the water. 

People surveyed offered a range of solutions, some of which the Otuihau group members are already undertaking. For example, the highest number of responses recommended fencing cattle away from the streams and planting the riparian margins, which is a goal the group is already working towards.

Contaminants in the water

Scientific testing has shown us that most of the bacteria in water at the Falls comes from ruminants (animals that chew their cud, such as cattle, sheep, deer, goats) and wild birds. The main contaminant in water that impacts on human health is faecal contamination – in other words bacteria from the guts of different animals that could potentially make you ill. Sediment can also make the water cloudy and often carries bacteria and nutrients with it.  

What’s being done

A project funded by the Northland Regional Council’s environment fund and a grant from the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund has been running for a year and already more than six kilometres of fencing has been completed and nearly 2400 plants have gone into the ground. 

This project will help reduce the amount of gut bacteria from ruminants going into the river. Anyone interested in checking their eligibility for funding waterway fencing or planting under the project should contact Lorna Douglas at Northland Regional Council’s land management team on 09 470 1105 or 027 672 0005.

Reducing bacteria from wild birds is a much more difficult issue to manage. The Otuihau group is planning signs at the Falls to educate visitors there about not feeding ducks at the reserve. As well as bread having the potential to make the birds sick, the more they are fed in such areas, the more birds and bird poo there will be just where people are swimming.

What you can do to help

  • Join in local community planting events – there are several each winter run by the Whitebait Connection group. You then have the satisfaction of seeing those plants growing every year and it is a great business or group team building activity. Check planting dates here:
  • Set a good example and pick up litter off the street when you’re out and about.
  • Put litter in bins to stop it washing into the river.
  • Report fly tipping as soon as you see it. 
  • Clean your car on your lawn – this reduces detergents and other contaminants reaching stormwater and flowing into the river.  



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