Tim Walker’s Swimmable

Having lived all my life on the arid plains of Mid Canterbury I have yet to find a river, a stream, a lake, a pond or even an especially large puddle, in which I could not swim.

That said how exactly does one define the term, ‘swimmable’?

Water quality is obviously a significant factor, but then who decides which body of water is to be considered ‘acceptable’ and which should be deemed ‘contaminated’?

The Opposition are bemoaning the Government’s promise to ‘make 90 percent of New Zealand lakes and rivers swimmable by 2040’, maintaining that rather than cleaning up supposedly polluted waterways they plan to simply lower the ‘swimmable’ standard…

This strategy sounds hilariously reminiscent of a certain Helen Clark led Labour Government where she was able to essentially wipe out New Zealand’s unemployment with her questionable concept of paying the nation’s bums benefits thereby altering their status from ‘unemployed’ to ‘invalid’ while in the meantime practically bankrupting the country before passing the reins to John Key and his National party where they then did their best to steer the gig clear of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

…The problem is here, an Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch local’s evaluation of ‘tainted’ water – the aforementioned groups no doubt having become accustomed to a city water supply which is actually less clean water than it is dead water and is about as far from their beloved pristine water as water can be – is probably any clear liquid that doesn’t stink of chlorine. This is considerably different to my own evaluation of the same watery liquid; having grown up drinking water-race water – the same water-race in fact that ran through countless farms across the Canterbury Plains before reaching our house/taps/stomachs – I am not particularly fussed about so-called ‘water quality’. Providing it’s free-running and doesn’t smell rancid I’ve never had any issue drinking New Zealand water…

As for water swimmability however, well, that’s a different topic altogether; I mean, if it’s not chlorinated to the point of making our supple eyes burn and blonde hair turn green, how do we know it’s safe to immerse our tender little torsos amid it’s wonderfully moist depths?

…Mind you I’m not a soft-cock either. I’m not the kind of guy who peels or even washes very well his vegetables before consumption, or indeed the kind of person who has had their lives so heavily influenced by the insidious nature of media scare-tactics that I simply must go out and buy every cleaning product on the market with the intention of eradicating from my house every germ or micro-organism in sight – sorry, not in sight…

I recently spent time surrounded by some of New Zealand’s most beautiful landscapes and beside some of our most – genuinely – pristine waterways. On this North Canterbury farm, bordered on one side by the almighty Hurunui River (which, sadly, on reflection I would deem not swimmable, given the way the millions of tons of crystalclear water pulsating their way down that gorge would undoubtedly pulverise my mortal body on the rocks) in conjunction with a few thousand sheep scattered over the hillside, on the lowlands they in fact graze several hundred head of cattle.

…The Opposition, joined by an idiot band of eco-warriors, maintain the Government, as well as lowering ‘swimmable’ standards in order to meet their goal, in their impending quest to ‘clean up rivers and streams’ they supposedly plan to ‘overlook’ many of New Zealand’s ‘fundamental’ waterways…

It wasn’t unusual during a dry morning on the farm, out shifting irrigation on the quad bike, after crossing a stream to then dismount before heading back to this picturesque bubbling brook, dropping to the press-up position, and to slurp mouthful after mouthful of the purist water I have ever tasted.

…Presumably these people doing the complaining have never been to the South Island, let alone drunk from a Rangitata, Waimakariri, or a Hurunui rivulet because – cesspools like Lake Ellesmere and Forsyth aside, which on account of a lack of flow and an excess of birdlife all pooping about the place is admittedly disgusting – the majority of Canterbury’s waterways are in good condition and certainly, they are swimmable…

Of course there was often a herd of cattle languishing upstream in the neighbouring paddock but, like me, they didn’t make a habit of discharging waste in the same place they drank.

…I heard the other night on the News one of these idiot eco-warriors ranting about how the Government’s clean-up plan would ‘neglect the rivers and streams of Banks Peninsula’, which ‘desperately need cleaning up’; I almost choked on my scotch – I’d always thought that if I was ever asked to give an example of one place in New Zealand where the water is ‘pristine’ (obviously this thought had originated prior to tasting Hurunui’s water), I would have recommended Banks Peninsula’s rivers and streams…

Maybe the Government should lower the standard of ‘swimmable’ water because if people up top are asserting that the majority of Southern waterways are polluted to the point of earning the label ’not swimmable’, well, there must be something giving a false-positive.

…My guess is that, typical of all things eco-warrior, half a story is all they require to cause a fuss on subjects about which they otherwise have no clue, therefore this speculation that Banks Peninsula water is unclean is likely based on a trip the idiot took to Duvauchelle where he probably sat by the ocean and breathed, and yes, the smell of rotting seaweed coupled with bird faeces in that place is egregious thus the belief that no clean fluid could possibly exist amid a stench so foul/fowl is quite understandable.

Ultimately the Government can do, or not do as is the predicted belief, as it likes; I will continue to drink New Zealand water straight from the source regardless.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Du Cuddle Poop

Photography by N Karleen Waters



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