Hero photograph
Photo by Donna Lee

'Water Woes': Year 11 Geography

Donna Lee —

A case study on fresh water sustainability in the Canterbury region.

'Decked out' in gumboots -the Year 11 geography students had a very productive day collecting primary data for their internal assessments on the sustainable use of an environment/geographic issue. Our particular focus was the environmental, economic and social impacts of dairy farm intensification in the Selwyn area.

Mr. Phil Musson, a fourth generation dairy farmer located at Springston South, provided an informative tour around his dairy farm.  Students attained greater understanding of the stringent environmental compliance that farmers must adhere to. He discussed his award-winning sustainable farming practices - such as riparian planting and building a state-of-the-art winter sheltering barn and effluent pond to help mitigate nitrogen leaching and sediment run-off. Students also had a chance to see the technological developments in current dairy farm practice.  His newest initiative is with Fonterra and DOC's Living Water programme. They are applying the latest science to restore the fresh water ecology of the Arira River - LII, a branch of which flows along the frontage of Mr Musson's farm.

At the lower Selwyn Huts we met long-term local resident, artist and environmentalist; Mr. Mike Glover. He spoke passionately on the current poor state of the Selwyn River and Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere. He is concerned that young people can no longer swim and conduct recreational pursuits in the river as previous generations have. Mikes also explained the need to have his drinking water tested for the nitrate levels to ensure it is safe for consumption.

Next we visited Coes Ford which in the past was a popular spot for day trips by Christchurch urban dwellers - these days it has become a popular freedom camping spot for international visitors. Then we travelled on to the  Lakeside Domain.

After lunch we met the Water Watch team at Harts Creek.  Here students were supported in conducting scientific research on the water quality levels. Suitably attired in waders - students collected water samples and then worked through a series of collaborative tasks in groups. This included chemical testing, air measurement and habitat assessment.

We then visited Fisherman's Point and Taumutu to discover some of the early histories of the lake and particularly, the cultural significance to Maori. Here we also met Mr Clem Smith, a local commercial fisherman who has harvested fish such as eels and flounder from Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere for close to 40 years. He explained the changes to the lake he has noticed over time and provided some insights into the eel industry. He also showed us some eels..... a few students were brave enough to inspect them more closely than others!!

Post trip; the Year 11 Geography students have produced some amazing work!!