Beautiful Coe’s Ford is one of the gorgeous spots you could swim at on this river – if you’re prepared to get a waterborne illness. Even the upper reaches of the Waikiriki regularly get algal blooms, posing a health risk to people and animals.
Canterbury’s rivers have taken a hit from intensive dairy farming (which causes high levels of farm run-off), coupled with the devastating impact of irrigation schemes which destroy habitat for native species and enable more intensive farming.
The river is over-allocated, which means too many people have taken too much water for their farms, making it even more susceptible to pollution and changing the river’s natural resilience.
Irrigation has changed Canterbury from a braided river paradise to a monoculture of dairy cows, where the environment comes off a poor second to chasing dairy export dollars.
This has upset members of the community, who have formed Te Ara Kākāriki Greenway Canterbury Trust, a group which is dedicated to planting green spaces around the plains and helping landowners manage the existing native bush they have on their land, all with the aim of encouraging native birds, such as the kākāriki (yellow and orange-fronted parakeet), back into the region.