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Local iwi detects spread of campylobacter in Paraparaumu

Monitoring by local iwi Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai has confirmed the spread of the bug, campylobacter, in Paraparaumu’s Wharemauku Stream. After detecting its presence in October last year at one site near the Kāpiti Airport, recent monitoring has determined that it has persisted at this site, and is now also present at a site that tested negative last year, just past the Paraparaumu Library, indicating the pathogen is spreading. The Wharemauku Stream runs through residential areas before reaching the sea at Raumati Beach.

“The results were picked up as part of our kaitiaki monitoring programme which includes microbiological monitoring of watercress,” said Mahina-a-rangi Baker, Pou Takawaenga Taiao, Environmental Manager for the iwi, “the iwi are concerned about public health risks, in particular the risk that this bug makes its way into bores as it did in the Havelock North drinking water crisis. This is especially important to consider in Kāpiti given the high water table and the large number of properties who access water for a variety of purposes via bores.”

The iwi are now requesting that a Taskforce is established in partnership with Kāpiti Coast District Council to address the issue, and identify and fix sources of contamination, after what they say was a lack of appropriate action taken by the Council when the first test results were generated last year.

Baker says, “The response from KCDC to date has been to characterise the contamination as somehow typical in urban waterways. This is at best naïve and at worst negligent. We have now tested all six waterways in our rohe for two consecutive years and the Wharemauku is the only one that has returned results indicating presence of this bug. Our community deserves to have a Council that recognises the need to react to genuine public health risk, especially while it is still at a level that’s manageable.”

Previous advice from the Medical Officer of Health stated that, “Campylobacter infection can be a very serious illness for the elderly, very young those with an impaired immune system who may require hospital treatment. On rare occasions the illness can be fatal.”

Symptoms usually appear 2 to 5 days after exposure and improve after 2 to 3 days. The main symptoms are:
• diarrhoea, which may blood in it;
• stomach pain or cramps, which may be severe;
• flu like symptoms, including headache, muscle pains, fever and fatigue (feeling very tired);
• nausea;
• vomiting.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) advise that all watercress harvested from any other local streams should be cooked before eaten and should not be consumed raw. The iwi have maintained a rāhui on the Wharemauku Stream that bans any gathering of food or contact with water or vegetation in the Stream.

Baker, who is also a member of the Kāhui Wai Māori, the Māori Freshwater Forum that provides advice to the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Taskforce, says “I note that today the Government is launching their comprehensive review of the Resource Management Act. In order to recover the health of our waterways and our connection to them, the new framework must embed the principles of Te Mana o Te Wai; those being mana whakahaere, good governance, kaitiakitanga, stewardship, manaakitanga and care and respect for the way that our whole community interacts with water.”

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