REVIEW: James Croot, The Press

Seven Rivers Walking: A passionate clarion call for action on Canterbury’s ailing rivers

The Rakaia is one of the many Canterbury rivers in poor health featured in Seven Rivers Walking

Seven Rivers Walking (E, 84mins) Directed by Gaylene Barnes and Kathleen Gallagher ★★★½

“No one will care until Christchurch runs out of water.”

That’s one of the many laments sounded in this passionate clarion call for action on Canterbury’s ailing rivers.

Directors Gaylene Barnes and Kathleen Gallagher’s documentary captures gatherings of those who live by and care about the province’s waterways as they share their concerns, suggest solutions and take action themselves. Mighty rivers like the Rakaia, Waimakariri, Ashley and Selwyn are in a sorry state, is the clear, erudite message.

Gorgeous overhead shots of the plains and river beds contrast sharply with weed-choked tributaries and defecating cows as the film-makers highlight the link between the intensification of farming (there are now 1.7m dairy and beef cattle in Canterbury) in the area and river degradation.

But while “foreign” farmers (be there from overseas or the Waikato), Environment Canterbury’s “commissioners” and the current National Government who first appointed them in 2010 get most of the heat, there’s also a warning about high population density living in the Garden City and a suggestion that the earthquakes that ravaged the region earlier this decade also could provide some opportunities to redress the balance.