Oyster Farm At Risk In Northland

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
26 June 2007, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - Another Northland oyster farm has been put at risk from pollution - this time in Whangarei harbour.

Nine oyster farms in the Bay of Islands are now derelict after they were closed seven years ago by a sewage-borne virus.

An oyster farm at Parua Bay on Whangarei Harbour had its certification put at risk by septic tank systems at nearby new houses which failed after heavy rain.

The faults have been corrected, but the pollution was discovered only when the oyster farmer carried out a water purity survey. The farmer has had a six-month wait for an all-clear.

Unlike the Waikare oyster farmers, who sued for damages and lost, Barry Jessop could prove where the pollution was coming from and has been told he could have sued successfully.

After farming 17 years - and selling to Japan and America with an impeccable safety record - his routine water-testing showed faecal coliform counts in the bay had suddenly rocketed. $13,000 worth of newly harvested shellfish had to be dumped.

Mr Jessop called in public health officials - and went hunting for the sources of the pollution. In the end, it was tracked to a small creek running past a couple of new houses where raw sewage was flowing into the sea from a council-approved, state of the art bio-septic tank system.

It took six months for the council and Northland Health to sort the problem and give the all-clear. Mr Jessop says he's fortunate it was the off-season for oyster harvesting.