Investigating the icky is vital to get answers


While many New Zealanders were enjoying some rest and relaxation over the New Year holiday period, I, along with other Kiwi cricket followers, was being tormented as the Black Caps, the current world test champions, were inexplicably defeated at the hands of Bangladesh in Mt Maunganui.

This bizarre turn of events got me thinking about some of the world’s other unsolved mysteries. Who was Jack the Ripper? Was Lee Harvey Oswald really JFK’s assassin? Who was Suzie, the waitress responsible for the All Blacks’ world cup final loss in 1995?

Any list of the most famous cold cases would not be complete without a mention of Invercargill’s very own unsolved crime . . .the Case of the Mystery Pooper! That’s right, Tim Shadbolt isnot the only person to put Invercargill on the map.

We were living in Southland at the time and vividly remember those dark days during February and March 2015 when Splash Palace, the Invercargill swimming complex, was attacked. Not once, not twice, but six times!

The serial aquatic defecator, who is clearly a very punctual operator, struck on six consecutive Fridays, triggering the dreaded ‘‘Code Brown’’ and mass evacuation of the pool on each occasion.

Hopefully the police forensics department has retained a sample of the evidence, as DNA technology is available that may help to identify the poopertrator at some stage in the future. This technology has actually been employed in recent years to help answer another important question, which has direct relevance to many farmers in our region.

When it comes to bacterial contamination of our rivers and lakes, the general assumption has been that livestock, especially cattle, are to blame. Some have argued, however, that much of the problem may be caused by wildlife including ducks, geese and gulls, so several studies have recently been conducted to investigate the issue.

Using DNA technology to determine the source of E.coli bacteria — the main indicator of faecal contamination in waterways — these studies showed waterfowl and black› backed gulls were, indeed, the main contributors to the problem in a number of rivers in Southland, Otago and Canterbury. As much as 80% of the E.coliin some of the waterways was found to be of avian origin.

While farmers may be pleased with these findings, their satisfaction could be short›lived if the present government’s track record is anything to go by. Don’t be surprised if, after digesting the study results, the Ministry for Crazy Ideas announces that, along with cattle and deer, farmers now have to fence ducks out of their waterways!

At least duck›shooters should get some accolades for a change. By getting up early and braving these cold late› autumn mornings, every hunter who takes down a few ducks is improving the water quality of our rivers. Rather than being charged a licence fee, they should be getting paid for their services!