Les & Dorothy Batcheler

Les and his wife Dorothy have lived in the suburb Southshore, on the Spit, adjacent to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary since 2009. Les was a prominent contributor to the Combined Estuary Association’s successful challenge to the Christchurch City Council’s plan to continue discharging treated sewage wastewater in to the estuary (process commenced c.1995).

He was a co editor of the publication: In defence of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary, 2002, a collated collection of written evidence re: the Estuary Discharge Hearings, provided by members of the CEA and associates.

He was also a participant in the considerations and discussions that led to the City Council’s decision to construct the ocean outfall pipeline. The pipeline commenced operating officially on 24 March 2010.

A recommendation implemented by the Christchurch Drainage Board in consequence of the report titled “The Ecology of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary, “ 1973, was to release the ‘slug’ of residual effluent, (after processing at the treatment station) in to the estuary, over one six hour period each day timed to coincide with the turn of the full tide. There was considerable evidence thereafter of declining fish population. Les describes what was observed.

Oh! the fish disappeared, ah it’s interesting, that Peter Neal, a chap who lives just down the road he brought his family to New Zealand in 1970, and when they got there bearings and using their East Anglian fishing skills they discovered that there were a lot of um, arh (interviewer prompts)…….shrimps, thank you , (laughter) there were a lot of shrimps in the estuary now that was 1970, they started fishing I think 1971. By 1974 there were no shrimps, they just disappeared, now arh, the disappearance of the bony fish, and the disappearance of the shrimps you could only reasonably attribute that to the “slug of ammonia” that was going down there [in to the estuary] ….on the ebb tide which the experts [research reference Professor George Knox and Ian Killner 1973] had recommended that they do [Christchurch Drainage Board] so it was the wrong thing to do for … good reasons, but that finished the fish populations off.

Do you think maybe that um, that the very clear evidence that come through [was apparent] from the “slug” may have helped with the turn of attitudes, that if it had just been trickled out then the evidence would not have been so compelling.

I entirely agree they proved the case against themselves, yes.

Both Les and his wife Dorothy have been volunteer collectors in a major water sampling project for the estuary and its catchment. The aim being to have clean, clear waterways, safe for boating and swimming, and ultimately also for the collecting and eating of seafood, mahinga kai. This result would realise all wishes the couple have for the city’s precious water assets: the estuary and its major tributaries.

What do you imagine that your great grand children might experience when they visit the estuary say in 2020, or what would you hope they might experience?

2020, my grandchildren (interviewer again; great grandchildren)
Well they will be swimming those kids will be swimming in the estuary and sailing and regarding it as a beautiful place to swim and recreate. That’s what I look forward to, that it becomes a treasure, the jewel in the crown of Christchurch.

Would you like to make any further comment?

No, just… get it cleaned up, the city can afford it, or our community can afford it, it deserves it, it’s timely, we can technically do it, lets bloody do it, that’s my feeling.