One day Clare Scott hopes her two-year-old daughter Alyssa will be able to paddle in the York Stream, which runs behind their Nelson South property.
“How cool would it be to paddle in the stream? It would be great for the kids to explore up and down here,” she says.
But right now, every two days, her husband Mike jumps down into the water to fish out myriad trash that has been dumped there by people in the neighbourhood.
There have been mattresses, televisions, rubbish bags and broken windscreens – all casually discarded upstream.
“A neighbour even found a car battery once,” Clare says. “We like taking care of the places we love. We want to do what we can to protect it. I would love it if the neighbourhood attitude would change.”
A few days ago, Clare came out to find the entire stream had been contaminated with a white substance. “It looked like an industrial load of milk. We had no idea what it was.”
Mike took a water sample for the Nelson City Council to analyse.
“This area has been degraded for a while so there is this misperception that the stream is in a horrible condition,” Clare says. “I think people are acting on that assumption. But it’s getting better – there are a tonne of birds and we recently found eels in here.”
But right now, she wouldn’t let her three children paddle in it.
The situation came to the attention of councillor Matt Lawrey who says the council is next week implementing a hotline for people to make reports about polluting around the region.
The reporting system is being brought in after the conservation group, Friends of the Maitai, suggested it.
The stream’s pollution comes from different sources – there is forestry, quarries, landfills, urban residential and industrial uses all in a small catchment. The stream also has low flows, which means that pollutants are not readily flushed away and can be found in high concentrations.
But Matt says there had been work by many locals and schools to help clean up the stream and it has paid off.
“But it’s disappointing when people are doing that but then there are a few individuals who, when no one is looking, just use it as a tip.”
He says sometimes people see things happening and don’t want to get involved and report it.
“Really, all it takes is a call to the council. They will take it seriously. It will get logged and it will get looked at.”