By Graham Carter
The National Party subverted democracy by sacking the elected ECAN Councillors and replaced them with Commissioners, to facilitate the grab for water and growth of industrialized dairying in Canterbury. They also made sure that minimal compliance work was done to enforce consent requirements and water takes etc. In Canterbury in 2016, there were 376 complaints to E-Can and zero prosecutions. Continuing to deplete groundwater while the catchment is low certainly does not help. That’s the result of a consenting regime put in place by those who did know better, but continuing to issue permits for extraction anyway. Queenstown’s council is allowed to discharge untreated sewage to Lake Wakatipu if they have a breakdown. Manawatu Regional Council recently allowed itself to discharge raw sewerage into a local stream
In 2016 ‘almost a third of Northland dairy farms are significantly non-compliant when it comes to effluent discharges’.
We should also point the finger at the fertilizer companies who produce the bulk of the water-soluble fertilizers that are causing much of the nutrient leaching problems, because they allow farmers to have high stocking rates. Their focus is on sales and profit not the environment.
Take away the urea (almost unheard of in farming practices 30 years ago), the massive tonnages of palm kernel extract imported as feed supplements each year, and ease off on the use of other water-soluble fertilizers and the carrying capacity on dairy farms will have to drop back.
Farming is critical to our economy, so the businesses that benefit from it should be forced to be compliant along with farmers.
Although dairy effluent is damaging to the environment, human waste also presents a danger to us and this is another area where Councils have let us down badly.
Nobody wants dairy effluent or human waste going into the water supply. Nobody on either side is claiming that one justifies the other. So let’s focus on how incompetent and non-compliant our Councils, fertilizer companies and Fonterra are.
Councils have done such ridiculous things as classified effluent as “treated” simply because it was dispersed by an irrigation system. The corruption is staggering.
Planting the margins of the waterways looks pretty and makes the farmers feel like they’ve done the right thing. Meanwhile, excess nitrogen from cow urine and fertilizer leaches through the soil and moves into the aquifers, then makes its way to the streams underground. Out of sight. Out of mind. The only way we’re going to improve water quality is to reduce the number of cows.
Let’s stop making excuses the major issue facing our rivers comes from intensified farming and excess water extraction. This has decreased the river flows and then concentrated any contamination that is present. Land irrigation has only started to occur since the dairying has taken over from sheep farming.
And while farmers are the offenders the Councils have allowed this with the continued allowance of irrigation outstripping what the system can handle.
Science tells us that one dairy cow is estimated to excrete fecal bacteria equivalent to that of 14 humans. NZ ha 6.5 million dairy cows; this is the equivalent untreated sewage of 90 million humans seeping into our waterways.
Councils as well as farmers along with the Fertilizer companies and Fonterra should be held accountable for ensuring that our waterways are swimmable, drinkable and wadeable; held at natural flow (no abstraction); with their natural character (unmodified); and that polluter’s pay.
The Gisborne district council (GDC) set up a Freshwater Advisory Committee to advise the sitting councilors on matters pertaining to all freshwater under their jurisdiction prior to passing district regulations governing future policy. This GDC freshwater advisory committee is the most unbalanced, stacked committee of any type ever seen or heard off.
There was a very good submission put to GDC on the makeup of this committee, which was ignored.
If other districts had these so called advisory committees? To what extent have they influenced council policy in respect of the setting of freshwater regulations for the future?
There is also a level of blame that could be appropriated to some Fish and Game councils?
While dairy farming has been and will in all probability continue to be a large scale contributor to water quality deterioration in some areas, The modern style of farming in other non-dairying areas of NZ is currently equal if not more to blame and as new genetic and other so called advances on pasture production are developed it will get worse.
Then we should consider what the National Party is proposed to hand over to iwi as a ‘Treaty settlement.’
In summary, the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group wants:
- Transfer of title to all Crown owned river and lake beds and title to the water column above to regional tribal groups.
- Title in fresh water consistent with Waitangi Tribunal rulings.
- Guaranteed of allocation of fresh water for all marae and marae housing.
- Free water infrastructure for maraes and marae housing.
- Tribal participation at all levels of fresh water decision-making that may include tribal representation on councils, joint management agreements, and co-management of waterways.
- A $1-billion fund of public money to build the capacity of tribes to implement fresh water management and control.
- Tribal involvement in resource consents or an allocation of tradable water rights.
Regional ratification for the strategy should finish by around now with confirmation of the position of all tribes on water by the middle of next month.
Are you ready to give up water? I don’t think so!
The infiltration of councils and the likes of the Canterbury Water Management zone committees by farming, irrigation, and other related industry groups is the core of the problem.
There are so many conflicts of interest, and is why Ecan looks the other way so often.
But they are well backed up by the government that allows or makes it happen. The government has failed in its duty to protect our freshwater for New Zealanders, and has actively worked to make it easier for that to happen.
Nick Smith as environment minister has a great deal to answer for, and while there isn’t an alternative government in waiting, we certain need him to lose his seat!
Not to mention the blind eye the former minister of tourism has shown to our declining clean green image and the risk this creates for the tourism industry.
It is a ticking time bomb.
A good number of the zone committee meetings are always held during work hours – no problem for the self-employed farmers to attend, and they packed them out, but the average working man wasn’t there. That’s the collaborative approach they used…organised by Mr Smith’s lackeys…
Then you have the enormous subsidies for irrigation and consequent pollution clean up i.e:
- Subsidised Irrigation:
– $60M Irrigation Acceleration Fund (2011-16)
– $400M Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd (2011-2016)
- Subsidised Clean Ups
– $100M Freshwater Improvement Fund (2016)
– $265M Fresh Start for Freshwater (2011)
– $100M Riparian Retirement Fund (2014)
Nick Smith insisted all the above moneys were “capital loans”. Guess how much has been paid back to date?
Plus banks are very keen to lend and displace risk to farmers, the current national dairy debt is near $40 billion, Fonterra’s liabilities at $7.6 billion and our national debt at $91 billion increasing at $140 every second.
Water belongs to everyone.