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Can farmers and fishers co-exist on the Tukituki?

David Renoulf of the Hawke’s Bay Environment Water Group has been fishing the Tukituki since he was a child and agrees with Fish and Game that trout are a gauge to the wellbeing of the water. He challenges the Council’s monitoring methods and believes the single most important factor in improving the quality of the Tukituki is to stop farmers putting too much nutrient on land in the first place.

John Scott has been fishing for over 60 years, and in the Tukituki since 1970. He is concerned that the proposed dam may add to the issues with the river before it rectifies anything.

“The philosophy behind water storage is a good one but what happens when people use that water? There may be extra water in the river but it’s contaminated – so what’s the good of that? I do not support water storage on its own. It’s got to work with the biodiversity of the river. The environment can’t be an after-thought.” Scott says. He also believes that although the HBRC carry out monitoring and testing in the river, this too is flawed.

“The Regional Council isn’t monitoring all the different types of pollutant, they’re very selective. Monitoring needs to happen. But policing? That’s a good question,” he says.

“The Regional Council set minimum flows but they can’t police them, and when the flow in the river gets low there’s no power in the river to flush out pollutants.”

For Scott there are a number of issues with the Tuki that need correcting before any ‘solutions’ are committed to.

Scott has formed Friends of the Tukituki, a group to highlight issues with the river and tackle them at a Regional Council level. He also sits on the Hawke’s Bay Environment Water Group and is a member of both the Hastings and Napier Anglers’ Clubs. He is an environmentalist, a fisher and also understands the ins and outs of local government, having worked alongside councils on many projects over the years. He believes river users need to become much more switched on to what’s happening in the Tukituki.

“If you don’t look after it, you’ll lose it. Every person in Hawke’s Bay pays Regional Council rates – we all have a voice and we can use it. We’ve got to pick up ownership of the Tukituki. If we don’t, people with money will pick it up and steal it. When you get to my age, you can see things unfolding and with the Tukituki there’s a real risk that it’ll get worse. I live in hope, but I am sceptical.”

Pete McIntosh is very clear on what he wants for the future of the Tukituki: “A river that is swimmable, fishable and safe for food gathering. What we want is higher flows of better quality water – if you can get that you’ve solved it all.”

He adds: “Fish and Game is not against economic development, but it needs to be sustainable. We support a growing economy for the region, but only when it’s achieved and promoted within an environmentally sustainable framework.”