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Tarawera River in much better health


Tarawera River in much better health

For immediate release: Wednesday 3 May 2006

An eastern Bay of Plenty river once dubbed “the black drain” by environmental activists is in vastly better shape now than it was a decade ago.

The Tarawera River’s health has improved significantly thanks to the major efforts of regional council staff and the three pulp and paper mill companies that discharge wastewater into it.

‘It’s a good news story,” says Environment Bay of Plenty’s Ian Noble, chairman of the regulation and monitoring committee. ‘It’s been a huge challenge, and a costly one for the mill companies, which are working with 50-year-old plants that they have continued to upgrade. We’ve come an awful long way but realise there’s still work to do, especially when it comes to the colour of the water. However, this is the last hurdle and the trends are all in the right direction.”

Early work had addressed the river’s toxicity, which is no longer considered a problem. Oxygen levels are now high enough to support fish life. “Now the biggest issue is aesthetic – it’s water colour. So, really, it’s looking good for the future of the river,” he says.

A report to the committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday 2 May) updated councillors on the state of the river. It particularly focused on dissolved oxygen content in the water and the colour load from industrial discharges by the three mill companies, Norske Skog Tasman, Carter Holt Harvey Tasman and SCA Hygiene Australasia.

All had achieved “very impressive results” in reducing discharges that affected oxygen levels in the river, the council’s manager of environmental coordination, Bruce Gardner, told the meeting. They had unfailingly met their resource consent standards for the past two years, he said. They also had plans in place that would improve performance further.

The impact of discharges on the river water’s colour load had decreased significantly over the past decade. “On a world scale, the colour load to the river is actually very low. However, because the water is very clear in its natural state and the river itself is quite shallow, it doesn’t take much to look bad.”

SCA Hygiene Australasia plans to shut down its pulp mill at the tissue plant in a year. “When that happens, the colour load to the river will reduce to the point where we expect it to be close to meeting the standard set in the Tarawera River Catchment Plan. When this standard is consistently met, we are confident the water will stop looking as black as it does now.”


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