Philippa Jones and Martin Hill
Protecting our rivers, the source of life, has become as urgent as protecting the air we breathe and the climate we rely on.
This is what inspired us to create River Guardian recently. The end-of-winter conditions mean that the daytime air temperature rises, causing mist to swirl just above the cold surface of the water. We thought this would be an eerie setting for a temporary installation.
We made the Guardian by first constructing a strong framework of branches – cuttings from the regular trimming of the thriving native kanuka trees where we live. As we attached more branches we could trim it to the shape we wanted. We wheeled it down to the river and wearing waders we experimented by installing it at different spots and waited patiently for the mist to flow along the river.The source of the mighty Clutha River is Lake Wanaka. It carries a huge flow of water from the great mountains and glaciers of the Southern Alps.
Rivers are the arteries of the land and are vital to the health of ecosystems, to the species who have flourished in these habitats and to the people who rely on them for drinking water and recreation. The sculpture is intended to symbolise the need to watch over and protect the river.
In our region of Wanaka in Central Otago, New Zealand there is much discussion about protecting the water table, rivers and lakes from the increase in habitation and industrial agriculture, particularly conversion of farms to intensive dairy farming using pivot irrigation, imported feed stock with little management of the resulting effluent.
The push for more economic growth at the expense of the environment and water quality has led to dramatic decline in water quality in many rivers and lakes in other lowland parts of New Zealand. Now there is danger to the water systems of our once pristine highland water catchments.