Little could the authorities have thought of the serious consequences that would follow when they decreed that the Ohinemuri River should be a sludge channel for mining tailings. Nearly a million pounds have been spent in attempts to make good the damage that has been done, and is still being done.
In a proclamation on April 4, 1895, the Governor, the Earl of Glasgow, declared the river to be a water-course into which tailings, mining debris and waste water of any kind "used in, upon, or discharged from any claim or holding shall be suffered to flow or be discharged." The proclamation was to take effect on and after July 10, 1895. Since then, great mining companies have reached their peaks of production, and millions of tons of tailings and debris have been "dumped" in the Ohinemuri River. Almost all the tailings came from the mines at Waihi and Karangahake, and hundreds of thousands of tons of refuse are still entering the river each year, principally as a result of mining operations in Waihi.
Before the river was declared a sludge channel, the Ohinemuri was clear and pretty, and many natives depended on it for supplies of eel, an important item in their diet. There was a rowing club in Paeroa in those days, but the coming of the great companies spoiled not only the Maoriís chance of obtaining food, but also the pakehaís pleasure. Extensive stop-banks have been erected at enormous cost to prevent the river overflowing and flooding the town of Paeroa and the surrounding areas.
But as the bed of the river rises, because of the silt, so must the stop-banks be built higher, and the greater must be the havoc if the Ohinemuri overflows. Some authorities contend that only by dredging can the difficulty be overcome. In any case, the business must be a costly one.
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