This 15'27" "Sunday" television current affairs story journeys down the Selwyn River in New Zealand investigating the impact of dairy farming, climate change and irrigation in causing reduced flow and high nitrate levels. Considers whether the river is like a canary in a coal mine and whether it can be restored to its former glory. Asks has there been an over allocation of water rights and is the water undrinkable and swimmable?
John Selwyn traces the river from the foothills of the Southern Alps through Whitecliffs, Chamberlain’s Ford, Coe’s Ford and Selwyn Huts to Lake Ellesmere. He talks to locals including Shannon Bray, fish rescuer, about the current state of this formerly world-renowned trout fishing river.
Dr Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist, evaluates water samples from the river and gives his views on the causes and solutions. He advocates a tax on fertiliser and “cutting out the cow” by use of plant-based milk.
John Sunckell a third generation dairy farmer and Environment Canterbury board member explains that 15-20% of the degradation is caused by water takes for agriculture but the major driver is climate change. He says dairy farmers in Canterbury are aware of the issues and working on it with such measures as riparian planting and fencing of waterways.
A new alternative canal irrigation scheme is explained and considered.