Activists bring Mataura River poo to the Environment Southland

Written By: - Date published: 6:28 am, March 22nd, 2018 - 26 comments
Categories: disaster, Environment, farming, sustainability, water - Tags: , ,

Hat tip to Charlie for tweeting out this happening in Southland yesterday. Save Our Water Otago/Southland (FB page) organised this action outside the local Regional Council office. So good to see some well planned and implemented direct action.

Lots of coverage in local media (radio, TV and print), including this interview on Radio Southland with three of the activists, Matt Coffey, Rosemary Penwarden and Liana Kelly:

We’ve been really concerned about the water ways, right around the South Island. There’s an awful lot of people that get together online and all we do is talk. But we actually wanted to do so something.

That is a great, low key interview with three ordinary people who care and are stepping up. It’s pro-environment, but it’s also pro-farmer (Penwarden comes from a dairying family), with good explanations of Save Our Water’s five demands (see below) and what other people can do to support this action.

(good tunes too Radio Southland).

Save Our Water have a petition,

Matt Coffey filming cow shit in the river bed of the upper Mataura (sound quality improves),


Save Our Water press release at


Wednesday, 21 March 2018, 9:58 am Press Release: Save Our Water

Cattle Manure From Mataura River Bed Dumped at Environment Southland Office

Cattle manure collected from the Mataura River bed was today dumped at the front door of the Environment Southland office in Invercargill.

“I collected this manure out of the Mataura river bed, near where I live.” said Matt Coffey, Southland resident and member of the group Save Our Water Otago/Southland. “Environment Southland are not doing their job so I’m doing it for them. They are responsible for the health of our rivers and streams. Clearly they are not cleaning up our rivers – so I’m delivering this crap to them.”

In 2012 Environment Southland said they would work to improve the sate of our rivers. They expected a 10% improvement by 2020. Since then, the quality of Southland rivers has continued to deteriorate.

The central Southland plains are geologically similar to the Canterbury plains – porous glacial outwash gravel. Like Canterbury, this area is inappropriate for intensive dairying. Nitrates and bacteria (such as campylobacter, responsible for illness and deaths in Havelock North in 2016) travel rapidly through the gravel into streams, rivers and aquifers.

“Dairy conversions and extensions are continuing. Intensive winter grazing is especially damaging in Southland. Wetlands are still being destroyed.” said Save Our Water Otago/Southland’s Liana Kelly.

“When you hear that 97% of rivers are fenced, that is only dairy farms with a stream more than a meter wide and 300ml deep. 77% of the pollution actually comes from the rivers and streams that don’t meet those criteria. Non dairy cattle and other stock are legally allowed to roam freely in the river. That is crazy. We need rules based on science, not convenience.”

The Save Our Water Otago/Southland group says rivers and streams must be improved to a swimmable standard but also liveable for the creatures that depend on them for life; for the trout, galaxids, bullies, mudfish and tuna eels as well as the mayflies, beetles and others.

“We want New Zealanders to understand the scale of the freshwater crisis in Southland. Our southern rivers and streams, loved by trout fishers worldwide, are under attack from intensive farming and intensive winter grazing. This national crisis is hurting our tourism industry.”

Along with the manure, Coffey handed Environment Southland a letter with five key demands from Save Our Water Otago/Southland:

1. Enforceable prosecutions – no more stock in our rivers and streams
2. No more draining of wetlands
3. Active support for transition away from intensive to regenerative farming – start reducing stock numbers
4. Phase out intensive winter grazing, to be replaced with fewer cattle numbers and wintering barns.
5. No new dairy conversions or extensions

“These five demands will help slow the destruction of our rivers and streams.” Coffey said. “We cannot stand by while our children’s birthright – clean fresh water – continues to deteriorate.”


Bonus activism tweet from Canada,

26 comments on “Activists bring Mataura River poo to the Environment Southland”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    That councillor…looks familiar somehow…

  2. esoteric pineapples 2

    This is a good bit of advice from American progressive media personality Thom Hartmann who argues that the best way to get the public’s and media’s attention is through “political theatre”. He gives the example that to encourage tighter gun laws in California a group of black activists turned up in front of then governor Ronald Reagan legally armed with weapons. Reagan was so freaked out that he immediately changed the laws regarding gun control.

  3. Sparky 3

    We have a beach house in Foxton. The river next to the playground where our daughter plays smells like rotten eggs and last time I looked had a dead eel in it. Looks like nitrate soup. I would not put a toe in there. This is what both Labour and the Nats have allowed to happen and still allow. Can’t imagine it will get any better after we are sold out via the (C)ow(P)oo-TPP…..

    On that basis is it possible that those reporting on this site take a harder line with both parties….neither has served this nation well since 1980’s.

  4. cleangreen 4

    Farewell to our once clean green NZ.

    It was wonderful when it was there.

    • Robert Guyton 4.1

      When, cleangreen, do you reckon “it was there”?

      • Grafton Gully 4.1.1

        The “This is New Zealand” film from 1970 powerfully affected me when I saw it at the time when NZ was “cleaner and greener” What bashed me was seeing a maori driving a bulldozer through the bush in Grafton Gully to prepare it for the motorway. The place I roamed as a boy in the 50s. I saw my world through new eyes after and the hatred and despair formed then still haunt me.

        • Robert Guyton

          “a maori”?
          A human. Same. But yes, it hurt(s).
          Hatred and despair are the first feelings to visit, but beyond that, there’s determination to repair, yes? I take all attacks as invigoration to act; are you busy countering the stupidity? Go Grafton, GO! 🙂

        • Carolyn_Nth

          T’is a beautifully put together 3 screen panorama of NZ. But I didn’t see any bulldozer driving through Grafton Gully.

          Very 70s though. NZ unself-reflectively sells itself on Māori culture and a pristine environment.

          pure NZ…

          Flick on to 1981 and
          There is no depression in New Zee-eeland – no racism, no poverty, no pollution….

          Needs a new verse – “there is no pollution in New Zee-eeland.

      • cleangreen 4.1.2

        Hi Robert,

        I recall when I was a lad of 15 the Tutaekuri river in Clive was swimmable and very clean then in 1958 when whitebait would swim with us then and fish at the rivermouth was abundant.

        NCC municipal water supply was clean and drinkable to.

        So then the overuse of our land begun and all the rage as we see it is now,

        Heavy stock trucks rubble by all the time here now spewing their cattle and sheep urine and shit waste from the stock they have carried from long distances is rife.

        NIWA in Auckland some time ago warned that road runoff was going to affect all our waterways, so now it has come and now has ruined our water quality in all our rivers here.
        Come to the Clive river now and see the HBRC sign warning not to swim there and this is just the beginning of our degradation that will make this once clean land just like any overpopulated land use region elsewhere sadly.

        Sometimes my heart weeps because we have let the future become not a god pace for our children as it was left for us.

        • Robert Guyton

          The degradation has been visible, cleangreen, that’s for sure – us older greenies all have sorry tales of rock-pools, rivers, estuaries etc that have deteriorated markedly since we were young; those who don’t weren’t watching, I reckon. The problem though, is in our heads, or rather, our culture. If we believed differently in regard those “bodies” – pools, springs, lakes etc, we’d not damage them as we have. Sadly, our culture remains the threat – imagine if we truly believed the earth was our mother, the rivers her veins!

      • Graeme 4.1.3

        I used to fish and swim in the Upper Clutha, between Luggate and Cromwell in the mid 80’s. Water was as clear as, you could see 10m plus underwater. Now it’s got an amber tint, you can only see a couple of meters and there’s lots of fine speck (2-3mm) suspended in the water column, algae of something. I got out smartly.

        • weka

          hmm, do you think that’s from the lake, or from the nearby dairy farms?

          • Graeme

            I don’t really know there, but it also goes back quite a while, say 10 – 15 years. And I’ve only noticed it downstream of Hawea / Cardrona confluence. At first I put it down to Wanaka sewage, which wasn’t good for a while but that was fixed. Lake snow could be an explanation as could intensification, I just don’t go over there much now.

            • weka

              Downstream of the smaller rivers might make sense, given low flows and increasing algae in many rivers now. Could be farmers doing earthworks too on the day/week you were there.

  5. adam 5

    Direct action.

    dIRECT ActioN


    Love it, well done to everyone involved.

  6. Excellent, unfortunately not a protest we can replicate here in the Hawkes Bay where our cows politely poop directly into the river……though one year we did extend an open invite, via street posters, to our pro dam councillors to come swim in the Tukituki to ‘celebrate’ our swimmable rivers, unfortunately they all appeared to be busy that day…

  7. Kevin 7

    This is enough to make me cry.

    I grew up in a town on the Mataura and when I lived in Southland up until the mid 80’s, it was renowned as the finest brown trout fishery in the world, not just New Zealand.

    Anglers came from all over the world to fish in Southland, but now?

    The farming community have a lot of questions to answer about their farming practices and really need to question why they are in farming in the first place.

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