Home' Fish and Game : September 2016 Contents GRANT MUIR SAYS PEOPLE NEED TO BE PERSISTENT AND
PATIENT TO WIN THE FIGHT FOR WATER QUALITY
FILM MAKER JAMES MUIR WITH SOME OF THE STARS OF THE MOVIE ‘RIVER DOG’
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Grant & James Muir
WAIRARAPA FARMER AND ARTIST
Grant Muir’s one-man struggle to protect
a river in the face of some vitriolic
opposition from his local farming community and
council was captured in a film called River Dog shot
by his filmmaker son James.
Grant, who’s called himself the kaitiaki or guardian
of the Pahaoa River, has acknowledged those who
regard him as a ‘pariah’ over his mission to drive cattle
and sheep out of the river with his huntaway dogs.
The documentary, which has won awards as far
afield as Spain and Britain, has been described
as a message of hope and dogged (pun intended)
determination to, as Grant explains, “stand up for
Describing his background as a “Kiwi kid” who was
able to swim in rivers, he poses the question: “What
on earth are we doing to this country of ours, this
“We don’t let nuclear ships in here and we tell the
world we are environmentalists and we are care about
our environment. Then why on earth do we continue
to pollute our rivers our lakes our streams as though
they are nothing?”
The rural dweller reflects how difficult it has been
over the past eight years to get people to see just
how bad a state our environment is in, and how
much damage we’ve done to our rivers in particular.
Grant tells of seeing the Pahaoa River go from
“teeming with fish to absolutely no aquatic life”
within one year.
His response, driven by the thought that someone
had to do something, was to visit the river twice
daily with his dogs, sometimes at night, and drive
stock out of the river. He remembers his river patrols
as a “dark and difficult time”.
“My life was under threat and my dogs were
threatened. I got dragged to the side of the road one
day and beaten up by a local farmer.”
Grant’s single-minded determination to save the
river from the polluting stock, invading as many
prompt “public discussion” on the issue.
His message to others around the country,
fighting their own battles over dirty rivers and
streams, is be patient and persevere because “the
system is designed not to listen to you, push you
away and make you feel disempowered”.
Keep talking, standing up for what you know is
right and you’ll win through, is his hopeful tip for
others. And it’s a message that’s made its way as far
as Spain and Britain where River Dog has won awards.
James Muir picks up the story, saying the movie
has reached a wide audience throughout New Zealand
and across the world.
“It has motivated others to stand up for their
rivers, streams and lakes in New Zealand, and it has
motivated global audiences to be more critical of our
natural resource management.”
James says there is now mounting pressure for
change, after work that has been going on for many
“However, more needs to happen, changes in
attitudes can be swift, but change in policy and
practice, painfully slow.”
After the film had won international awards, the
pair started a group called Water Action Initiative NZ
(wainz.org.nz). The website collects data from all over
the country using a phone app, and publishes the
images of water pollution with a GPS location.
The incident reports are sent to the regional
People are urged to take a look: “There’s a lot of
cows in rivers on it.”
• Further reading – www.wainz.org.nz
GRANT MUIR AND HIS ‘RIVER DOGS’
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