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Gradual ‘exploitation’ of NZ water

Photographer Brian High adds his voice to the clean water debate in this short documentary film

The release of Sir Peter Gluckman’s report into the state of fresh water has brought a renewed focus to the debate over land use in New Zealand.

“We can’t ignore the scientific realities of what we’ve done to our water and it will need fundamental changes in urban planning and abstraction, dealing with climate change and, obviously, the agricultural system," he says.

Long-time freelance photographer Brian High says he has watched the degradation of rivers in streams in the Waitaki Valley area, which straddles the boundary of North Otago and Canterbury.

“I cannot tell you what it has been like to witness this exploitation of fresh water. It happens bit by bit and no one seemed to notice, until one day the whole country actually wakes up, honestly it’s been like watching an environmental landslide in slow motion”

High has lived and worked in the area for 30 years and decided to make his protest through a short film.

He says the catalyst was seeing first-hand impact dairying has had on the Hakataramea and Opihi rivers, where for decades he and his family have spent their summer holidays.

“This year the Opihi river was un-swimmable, and the lower reaches of the Hakataramea. When swimming holes are the foundation of your family holidays you have no idea how upsetting this is, I just keep thinking, what the hell have we done to New Zealand?”

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