A dead trout in a dry Canterbury river bed – stark testimony to government’s folly.
by James Speedy
The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers has put a hand brake on Minister for the Environment Nick Smith’s wish to hurry changes to the Resource Management Act through. In a letter to the Christchurch-based “The Press” Nick Smith argued he was a not hurrying the proposed bill of changes through Parliament. But the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers was not impressed with the minister’s denials.
Federation spokesman Ken Sims of Manawatu, said Environment Minister Nick Smith’s recent claim that proposed RMA changes were “not rushed’ did not inspire confidence – particularly so in the light of Smith’s recent statements such as: it was “not practical” to clean up degraded rivers, that birds were to blame for water quality declines and that water quality standards should be “boatable and wadeable” rather than ”swimmable.”
“With these in mind, it makes it all the more imperative to proceed with changes to the RMA with extreme caution and full public consultation,” he said.
Ken Sims said the Selwyn River, just south of Christchurch, and the dry river bed was a grim reminder that the current government was both in denial and cavalier about the public’s rivers. A recent article in “The Press” by journalist Charlie Mitchell’s gave vivid descriptions.
“A long stretch of the Selwyn River near Christchurch is barren. Its dry river-bed is snaked by tyre tracks, faint clues of its past as a river disappearing as it becomes a vehicle track. A beloved swimming spot downstream is stagnant. Fish and eels die in their dozens, trapped in pools evaporating around them.”
The Selwyn’s demise was tragically a classic example of the deterioration of the public’s lowland rivers and the implausibility of New Zealand’s “100% pure, clean” tourism and export marketing slogan said Ken Sims. He cited the recollections of current Federation president Colin Taylor (currently overseas) who as a teenager growing up in Canterbury in the 1950’s and under the guidance of the late George Ferris and other senior anglers, learned to fly fish on the Selwyn. The Selwyn was then a pure, clear and prolific fly fishing river. Today it has been destroyed.
“Its current condition of virtually dry river bed is an example of complete environmental mismanagement,” said Ken Sims.
Tony Orman spokesman for the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations and life member of the Federation said government plans to greatly increase dairying, particularly of a corporate nature, were “illogical and environmentally irresponsible”.
“In tackling its goal and idolizing of growth and to heck with the costs, government is pushing dairying expansion in low rainfall areas like the Canterbury Plains and MacKenzie Basin. Water has to come from somewhere to grow pasture. It won’t come from the sky so it comes from aquifers and rivers which are the one and same thing,” he said. “The result is depleted flows and dry river beds.”