1 Sep 2014

Greens co-leader hits the rapids

7:06 am on 1 September 2014

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has taken to the water to protest against the sale of Lochinver Station in the central North Island to foreign investors.

The sale has been the focus of debate over foreign ownership and Dr Norman said it also has implications for river quality.

Parts of the Mohaka River run through Lochinver Station.

Parts of the Mohaka River run through Lochinver Station. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Dr Norman yesterday went rafting down the Mohaka River, parts of which runs through the station.

"This is like New Zealand politics as it should be," he said. "Pretty clean. But there's real threats."

The property, near Taupo, is being sold to Chinese group Shanghai Pengxin, subject to approval from the Overseas Investment Office.

If the sale goes ahead, there are plans to convert part of the 14,000 hectare farm into dairying, and Dr Norman said that could ruin the Mohaka River.

"If it gets converted to large scale dairy, which is very likely, then the contamination coming off that, all the nitrogen will end up in this amazing beautiful river."

Russel Norman.

Russel Norman. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Norm Brown owns Mohaka Rafting, which operates on the river and remembers more than decade ago when effluent from dairy farms overflowed.

"This was green and stank. It was stagnant ... you can see just death on the bottom of the river."

He said he was worried that could happen again, in which case he'd have to shut up shop.

Bernie Kelly, from the Hawke's Bay Canoe Club, kayaks alongside the raft. He too is dreading the sale of Lochinver Station.

"The water would get really slimy for a start... there would be a lot of algae in it."

Dr Norman conceded it might be too late to stop the sale, as Shanghai Pengxin has already lodged its application, but said that did not mean the river was doomed.

"We can make sure that at least, if there's a change of government in three weeks time, that we can put in clean water rules. We can do that pretty quickly."

The Green Party says if elected, it would safeguard certain rivers giving them similar status to national parks.