Gaylene Barnes 

Gaylene Barnes is a Canterbury filmmaker, originally from rural Southland. This feature documentary follows her short animated film The Mobile Meat Processing Unit, a rurally-themed black comedy. This short film screened in many international festivals including the NZIFF and also pre-screened Beasts of the Southern Wild in Hamburg, Germany in 2013. Gaylene is also an editor and art director.

Kathleen Gallagher 

Kathleen is from Christchurch and has strong family ties with Orari, South Canterbury and with Cronadun, the West Coast of Te Wai Pounamu. This is her seventh feature film, Kathleen has also written plays – sixteen dramas – stage and radio, as well as poetry – three books and, most recently, one novel – Earthquakes & Butterflies, launched last year.


The job of our film – as in all films – is to render the invisible visible. And to turn hearts and minds to places where we did not know we needed to go.

Kathleen Gallagher – STATEMENT

Making this film was like stepping into a river and going with the flow – a pretty swiftly moving flow – like a braided river in full flood. As we made the film, it felt like the time of recovery of our waterways has come. It didn’t feel like it was us telling the story of the rivers, but the rivers and the river guardians telling their own stories and taking us on a wild raft ride and all we had to do was hold on for dear life – and hold on we did.

As the walks and rafting and filming progressed, I learned that the situation of our rivers is much worse than I had originally thought. Our rivers in Canterbury are all in crisis mode. They are seriously degraded, and continuing to go backwards and degrade even further.

The waters of very many of our rivers are grossly over allocated. And even the ones I had thought were “good”, are not good at all – you can no longer swim in the lower Orari, the water at the mouth of the Rakaia is not sweeping out for a mile like it used to, but being pushed back by the first wave. With this film and with our rivers comes hope and inspiration – we can and we will turn this around. We know air pollution in Canterbury was in a very sorry state in the 70s in and 80s in Christchurch when ECAN and the CCC and the people of Christchurch took it upon ourselves to no longer burn coal and burn wood only in appropriate wood burners. We can – the people of Canterbury do this and turn the situation of our waterways around now. They sustain us – our bodies our minds and our souls, and we must care for and nourish them.


Gaylene Barnes –  STATEMENT

I went on a journey of awakening during the making of this film – awakening to the crisis our rivers and waterways are facing.

During the making of the film I became proud of Cantabrians, those special people who are battling away for the rivers, some have been doing so for years! They are battling away to save the birds, the fish, the river, the water – for no reward for themselves. I am still completely humbled by their unselfishness and hard work.

I gathered a greater understand of how fragile our young land is – we just do not have a history of large ruminant animals roaming the landscape – we’re geologically young! We only just popped up from the ocean, we have the youngest mountains in the world – the Southern Alps – and these are are still eroding their way down the plains – via our beautiful braided rivers.

Thus, our soils are low nutrient. I learnt about how our farming practices to increase fertility can also have unintended devastating effect on the life in the waterways – streams, rivers and groundwater. The ‘nitrate issue’ is one of those problems, created by industrial scale farming since WWII, that is surfacing massively at the moment and affecting waterways and estuaries – globally. I think the nitrogen and the carbon problem of the planet possibly may need to be solved hand in hand. Too much nitrogen on the land (currently twice as much as is naturally created), and too much carbon in the air – all man-made problems.

I would like people to have a profound sense of the diverse life that abounds in the rivers and the river-edges and have more respect for the needs of the natural world. So people know what they can do to help, and also know when to leave nature alone-

We offer the potential to be “smaller, gentler and slower” in our moves upon the planet – rather than the current modus operandi of “bigger, harder, faster”. To this end we have put a lot of emphasis on the smaller critters – the hydra, the mayfly, the denitrification bacterias (!) – the microbial and macro invertebrate creatures that exist in the aquifers and water world – these are so important in sustaining our life on this planet. And they are completely invisible, ignored.