‘Tragic event’: Iwi blames irrigation for hundreds of eel deaths

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Iwi and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council are wondering why the area’s waterways are drying up this summer.

Local kura saw hundreds of eels die in the mud.
Photo: RNZ

The board first told RNZ it was a natural occurrence, but said there was more to do after being pushed.

At Bridge Pā, near Heretaunga (Hastings), the local kura found hundreds of eels dying in the deep, dried-up mud that was once their local streams – the Karewarewa and Paritua.

Ngāti Kahungunu’s director of environment and natural resources, Ngaio Tiuka, said the children tried to save them.

“A good number of people would capture the eels that remain in these little ponds and dig in the mud, hundreds of them, and move them to other places or other waterways where they can survive,” a- he declared.

“It’s a bit of a tragic event, of course they can’t save them all and we have pictures of a number of dying eels but the school has been involved in trying to save them. .

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To the local iwi and hapū, this summed up the degradation of the waterways they once enjoyed.

Lack of water is blamed on irrigation by the local iwi

Children swim in one of the streams on days when they were full of water. (image file)
Photo: Provided

Tiuka explained the importance.

“The streams and all waterways are an integral part of the identity of tangata whenua, of mana whenua and an integral part of their pepeha, their whakapapa, to the landscape.”

The question is: why are rivers drying up? There have been disputes between the iwi and the local government.

“We have had a disagreement about this and about tangata whenua for a number of years and through our whānau, our hapū and our taiwhenua the anecdote is that it is not a natural occurrence. be that it’s becoming more and more common, but it’s not a natural event, ”Tiuka said.

“The disappointment is felt but you are only masking if you say it is a natural event, it is essentially an overabstraction, it is over allocated.”

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To nature?

Asked for the first time about the reasons for the drying up of the Karewarewa and Paritua rivers, regional council director general James Palmer said it was mainly due to nature.

“Irrigation is history, but more fundamentally because of its location and the geology around it, it tends to dry out during a dry summer.”

But later RNZ received a model that the council had completed a few years ago and showed it to Palmer. The model found that over 90 percent of the water had been lost in Karewarewa near Bridge Pā due to pumping for irrigation.

Palmer’s team returned and found that the groundwater abstraction was likely causing rivers to dry up in places, he later explained.

“There is certainly a question of whether or not it would dry up in summer if there was absolutely no abstraction across the plains of Heretaunga.”

No legend

Groundwater abstraction will likely cause rivers to dry up in places, regional council CEO James Palmer said.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Choose Clean Water advocacy spokeswoman Marnie Prickett said authorities need to take a close look at their current policies.

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“If the government and regional councils are serious about their goals and our national goal of having healthy, swimmable rivers, then tackling these water intakes is a really important part of that and it won’t be. not just a question of keeping up with what is happening. now, but in some parts of the country there will have to be a process by which we actually take water from the people who use it. “

This year, hearings will be held for a big change of plan – TANK – that will affect many rivers in Hawke’s Bay and its tributaries.

Along with this, Ngāti Kahungunu recently announced that he would go to court with South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu to share control of its freshwater with the Crown.

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