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The state of South Canterbury’s rivers has concerned Timaru anglers so much they have compiled a list of problems.

“No-one would take one [a fish] to eat because they’re so polluted.”

The “Lost Rivers of the South Island” database compiled by anglers and other freshwater fishers around the South Island includes the Opihi, Orari and Rangitata Rivers.

Timaru Anglers Club president Allan Davidson said the majority of anglers were quite concerned about the state of the rivers, having watched them decline over the last 20 years.

After years of hosting fishing competitions in South Canterbury rivers, the club had been forced to adapt to a catch-and-release model, he said.

“No-one would take one [a fish] to eat, because they’re so polluted.”

Anglers had noticed low flow levels and nutrient enrichment in the Opihi River, causing a black algae bloom which gets into the flesh of the fish.

Mr Davidson said intensified farming and continued water extraction in the South Canterbury region had been a main player in the degradation of the rivers.

“If it’s bad now, what’s it going to be like in another 20 years?”

Lost rivers . . . Timaru Anglers Club president Allan Davidson says the state of South Canterbury rivers, like the Orari (pictured), have degraded so much over the past 20 years. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

He said the Timaru Anglers Club would like to see a ban on any further intensified dairy farming in the Mackenzie alpine area, Mr Davidson said.

“We’ve hit a limit for dairying in the South Canterbury area.”

However, Federated Farmers South Canterbury president Mark Adams said South Canterbury was enjoying economic prosperity because of the ways people had been using water in the region.

But he did admit there had been some unintended consequences of this prosperity, which farmers were now beginning to understand.

South Canterbury
Federated Farmers
president Mark Adams

Mr Adams said farmers were learning to manage their farms in more environmental ways, finding out how to create buffers between stock and waterways and understand the effects of water extraction.

“It’s an environmental awakening.”

There was no “quick fix” for environmental issues in South Canterbury. Each farmer was having to go through a trial and error process to fully understand what worked best for their farm, he said.

Mr Adams expressed frustration the current political environment was making farmers feel “disempowered” and “undermined” as party policies about farming and the environment were discussed.