A farmers’ coup in Canterbury

Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, March 31st, 2010 - 36 comments
Categories: capitalism, Environment - Tags: , , ,

The Government has dissolved the elected council of Environment Canterbury and replaced it with an unelected commissioners. It has decided that there will be no elections as otherwise required by the Local Elections Act for ECan later this year. Instead, the region’s water will remain under the control of unaccountable mates of National under 2014.

The catalyst for all this was a review by Wyatt Creech that damned the elected council. Creech is a big player in the dairy industry (amongst other interests, he, along with John Key at one point, and other National figures are behind the Dairy Investment Fund which owns Open Country Cheese).

The report is a real piece of trash. It contains accusations that the ECan councillors are too worried about ‘science’ (yup, it uses the quote marks as if science isn’t real) and says their decisions are “science led rather than science informed”, which is basically equivalent to saying that ECan should turn a blind eye to the facts when they’re inconvenient for dairy interests. It goes on to say “large numbers of staff are ‘green’ in orientation”, an outrageous accusation that these public servants are swayed by their political beliefs rather than the facts and the law which lays Creech’s own prejudices bear.

At the end of the day, the dairy industry, which has deep connections with National, just wants more water allocated for dairy farming. They don’t care that this is unsustainable.

They want more water now and the consequences be dammed. Yeah, literally dammed because that’s the dairy industry’s big goal, to dam the rivers and create reservoirs for themselves, despite the damage this will do to the water table beneath their own farms. They want to right to send untreated cowshit down our rivers in ever larger quantities.

John Key himself has made incredibly ignorant comments about not wanting to see water ‘wasted’ by flowing into the sea, which displays a complete ignorance of the role of river outflows in carrying sediment that counter-acts erosion all up the coast and the life-cycle of both native and introduced fish species that change between fresh and salt water during their life spans (whitebait anyone?). It is this kind of ignorance that is driving these dumb decisions.

Ultimately, the diary farmers will pay along with everyone else for their short-termist ‘science be damned’ attitude. But not before they’ve caused long-term damage.

36 comments on “A farmers’ coup in Canterbury”

  1. vto 1

    For the first time in a long time the blood is actually boiling.

    National and its thugs Key, Smith and Hide, etc no longer get my support. They can count me out at the next election.

    Who the hell do they think they are?

    FUCK OFF KEY

    FUCK OFF SMITH

    FUCK OFF HIDE

    I truly hope like hell that another government will be in place in, what is it, about 18 months? And that that new government stops this bullshit dead in its tracks.

    • r0b 1.1

      ‘Tis a rare and wonderful thing to be able to change one’s mind. Welcome to the struggle vto.

      Hey Cantabrians, you’re being shafted, are you going to take it lying down?

      • NickS 1.1.1

        Nyet comrade, I’m going to be watching out for protest dates and heading off to them.

  2. vidiot 2

    For once I agree with Marty – Dairying is not great for New Zealand in terms of environmental impact. Perhaps we should just build a few more open prisons in the high country instead, that should soon sort things out.

  3. RedLogix 3

    The increasing presence of nitrates at the Avonhead aquifer site (where ChCh gets most of it’s water from) even at low levels is a very ominous sign. It tells us that the ‘leading edge’ of this groundwater groundwater contamination has already travelled a significant distance, and that there is more to arrive. The problem will not get better.

    Nitrates are a terrible curse in a water supply. There is no effective treatment to get rid of them, and once they build up to toxic levels they will render the aquifer useless forever.

    I’m with vto … but I’m not sure if this or the mining issue boils my blood more.

  4. jcuknz 4

    My take on the situation is that the committee couldn’t get their act together and solve the problem.
    Remember the saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee? Though it is a pretty efficient animal with regards to water .. maybe cantabrians should have elected a few camels?

    • RedLogix 4.1

      My take on the situation is that the committee couldn’t get their act together and solve the problem

      No Right Turn covered this ages ago.

      A plan is in place and ready to be implemented August this year… just that Fed Farmers don’t like it.

  5. RedLogix 5

    It is not well recognised that the Regional Councils are the primary body mandated to manage the environment (outside of the Conservation estate). For Creech to attack their staff It goes on to say “large numbers of staff are “green’ in orientation’, is outrageous. It is their JOB to be green in orientation.

    Mining on Schedule 4 land.

    A big hit on DOC funding.

    Disbanding Auckland Regional Council and now this attack on it’s Cantebury peer…

    anyone else see where this is going?

    • handle 5.1

      Add to that list gutting the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act in favour of short-term business and economic drvers over longer environmental or social ones. Stealing hope from our children. I hope others like vto see what has been done with the support they gave in good faith. I would fell betrayed too.

  6. Bored 6

    There is one species amongst many that is threatened with extinction from the dairy industries efforts to exploit the Canterbury rivers. I harp on to my friends about a wonderful bird, the only one in the world that has a beak that bends to the right, the Wrybill Plover. These birds only nest on braided river beds and require a clear square kilometer of gravel to breed. Should flows and scouring be reduced they will not breed.

    Wrybill are a bell weather species on environmental damage in NZ, and highlight the total disconnect between our grass mining industry (irrigated farming) and doing what is right by the environment. I fear that the dairy and hydro power industries will be the death of this species.

    Alarmist, I think not. When a country tries to wipe out a race with industrial methods it is called a holocaust, or genocide. When an industry sets out knowingly with industrial methods to profit from actions that destroy a species it’s called progress. Draw your own conclusions, for me both are extreme acts of criminality.

  7. Red Rosa 7

    It appears that the rural gerrymander in ECan, which has allowed rural councillors to stall any serious water allocation plan for years, was coming slowly to an end. Also, the conflict of interest issues hanging around 4 councillors who voted to roll Kerry Burke as chairman was likely to see them dumped at this year’s election in October.

    So the end of this year may have seen an end to the ECan impasse. But it would be in the wrong direction for a government which has pledged ‘irrigation for Canterbury’, regardless.

    Couple this with the furious reaction from farmers when the Central Plains schemes was truncated, and you can see why this was being treated urgently.

    The government must want Central Plains reinstated, and the conservation orders on the Rakaia and the Hurunui lifted or at least amended. Or they wouldn’t be putting Ministers down here week after week. Then the Hurunui scheme, barely on the drawing boards, will get the green light, so to speak.

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    Authoritarians always see dictatorship as the answer. Not surprising then that NACT+MP implemented dictatorship for Canterbury and Auckland.

  9. vto 9

    So many wrongs having blind eyes turned to … How about Key man up on some basic honesty …

    1. Creech was not independent and should not have carried out the review.

    2. People at Dunsandel have for the first time had to treat their groundwater recently. As one local put it “now we’ve got fuckin’ shit and fuckin’ chemicals in our water”.

    3. See Redlogix point above about nitrates at Avonhead.

    4. The Selwyn River has gone from being a fully flowing river and one of the nations best fishing rivers to only flowing in flood. And the fish are fucked. gone.

    5. The Rakaia River closed up at the mouth about 10 days ago. Virtually unprecedented. People at Rakaia Huts say low flows are causing back-up flooding. Also unheard of.

    6. Perhaps farmers can explain how they will achieve economic growth after there is no more water to take. (fed farmers, are you man enough to answer such a simple and pertinent question?).

    7. Central Plains Water owners being a Requiring Authority and having the power to force others out of their homes. For their own private financial benefit. (Hubbard – stand and answer).

    8. The irony of having North American Indians over here at the Rakaia just two weeks ago to bring some of their salmon back to their rivers where they no longer exist… the reason? get this … because their rivers were dammed and all the fish lost. FFS! As the indians said “our fish die, we die.. our fish prosper, we prosper”

    .. puff puff… i’m getting pooped.. need to stop or the whole day will run away on me …

    • Bored 9.1

      Thats a sad list VTO, for years when I lived down there in Canterbury I would fish around streams on the plains, thats all gone now. I will maintain that if the high country and foothill swamps were reintroduced (they were all drained for extra marginal pasturage), and the aquifers left alone then the rivers would run to the sea in a pristine state. Ellesmere might get a chance to flush and clear rather than being a toxic soup.

      There were studies done by Lincoln / MAF years ago that recommended a far higher incidence of shelter belts across the northwester. They showed that irrigation became far less necessary due to the wind induced evaporation being reduced, and that fertiliser to replace wind eroded top soil was less necessary. Of course the agro industry ignored this, they prefered to get an instant return by “artificial” means, petro chemicals, water etc. All rather tragic, and per se rather myopic.

      I do have faith that the damage can be repaired and the plains returned to an economic / ecological balance, but these Nats and farmers wont do it until forced by coming economic circumstances. At the risk of being “Boring” I can only hope that the wrybill and mudfish last long enough to see the end of the cheap petro fuel and fertiliser era which underpins this madness.

  10. tc 10

    ‘Democracy under attack’ has another new front. I’d like to formerly welcome Cantab’s to the shafting feeling that aucklanders/beneficiaries/workers/students/teachers/conservationists etc have been experiencing awhile now.

    And you don’t even get a gentle kiss before being rogered up the rear…….and you thought they loved you.

    Any process with Wyatt Creech up front only has one outcome….Dairy farming good, everything else a poor second.

  11. Bill 11

    Before the election, I was present at a partisan meeting in Otago where Labours’ David Parker managed to completely fuck off an entire audience of a few hundred when he laid down his green credentials in relation to dairy farming and water by saying that he wanted ‘water clean enough to swim in.’

    Which leads me to anticipate with relish the blowback that the NAct government will get for their atrocious shenanigans on this matter.

    • Tigger 11.1

      The Nat leaders don’t believe in needing clean swimming water in rivers. They all have their own pools.

  12. Puddleglum 12

    Alec Neill, interviewed on Nine to Noon, did a surprisingly frank account of why the council was sacked. As Kathryn Ryan summed it up (to paraphrase) ‘So, you’re telling me a democratically elected body that made perfectly procedurally correct decisions has been ousted because those who didn’t like the decision lobbied for it to happen’ (Sorry – I’ll have to master the linking thing.) Given Neill is an ex-Nat MP and was the figurehead for ousting Burke recently, it was quite a spirited defence of local democracy.

  13. grumpy 13

    What a load of rubbish here about ECAN.

    Water is hugely important to Canterbury and nobody knows that more than farmers. Farmers NEED a sustainable water allocation system for the REgion but attempts to introduce abstraction from deeper wells and adaptive management practyices were stymied by activist Green councillors who had a blanket opposition to ALL irrigation and a few staff in key positions who decided to ignore Environment Court and their own RMA ommissioners findings.

    • vto 13.1

      Bullshit Grumpy.

      “Farmers NEED a sustainable water allocation …”

      bullshit bullshit bullshit

      This is exactly where this wholly erroneous sense of entitlement that farmers seem to have comes from.

      farmers buy a chunk of land and that is what they get. They get to make use of the geography of the farm and the climate which passes overhead in order to farm it. There is no right attached to that farm to take water from some publicly owned source some many miles away from the farm in order to make the farm viable.

      If a farm aint viable with its own geography and climate then it aint viable.

      Farmers do not need the water. They have bought their farm and they get that farm and climate which passes overhead.

      Tell me grumpy – how will farmers achieve economic growth on their farms when they can no longer add water to dry dirt?

      • grumpy 13.1.1

        vto, you misunderstand.

        When I say farmers NEED a sustainable water allocation, I mean that an unsustainable one will risk their entire farming practice. In my opinion dairying is not sustainable on the scale it is at present and the newly introduced (but yet to be implemented by ECAN) Adaptive Management regime with Nitrate monitoring in the 1st aquifer monitoring bores required of consent holders, will see irrigators stopped when levels are high – that will be the end for some current dairy farmers.

        • vto 13.1.1.1

          Oh. woops sorry.

          My comment still stands in relation to the commonly expressed view by farmers that they NEED water to make their farms viable. … those with that view need to wake up to reality.

          some more 2c says that the Canterbury Plains will be sacrificed to industry. The plains already resemble industrial estates. Farmers are just lucky that grass is coloured green and softens the blow – if it was coloured oil black, or tailings clay brown, they would get nowhere near as far as they have managed to to date.

          Canterbury will be an economic powerhouse. The entire plains will be a factory. The rivers and ecology will be fucked. The drinking water will be full of shit and chemicals even more than it is already. This is my vision unfortunately.

          The cruel irony is that Canterbury will end up an economic powerhouse anyway, all things being equal. So we can either be such a powerhouse with rivers and waterways intact, or we can be such a powerhouse with rivers and waterways all fucked up. Simple choice. It really is that simple.

  14. grumpy 14

    What a load of rubbish here about ECAN.

    Water is hugely important to Canterbury and nobody knows that more than farmers. Farmers NEED a sustainable water allocation system for the REgion but attempts to introduce abstraction from deeper wells and adaptive management practyices were stymied by activist Green councillors who had a blanket opposition to ALL irrigation and a few staff in key positions who decided to ignore Environment Court and their own RMA ommissioners findings.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 14.1

      Which highlights even more the need to have electorally accountable decision-makers. If you don’t like the decisions of the new commissars what are you going to do about it? You won’t have the opportunity to vote Margaret Bazley out.

      Don’t get me wrong, water in Canterbury is a mess, but do think this is going to help things?

    • Galeandra 14.2

      Saying it twice doesn’t make your offering anything but unqualified assertion. Evidence please. And don’t spare the sauce when explaining what “sustainable” means when you write : ‘ Farmers NEED a sustainable water allocation system for the REgion’

  15. Bored 15

    Hi Grumpy, we all need water, good clean fresh non polluted stuff, no dairy effluent or nitrates in it. And we all need to eat, get farm product, work, have an economy etc etc.

    You may be right that some activist “Greeny” types took an extreme position. So to re-establish a balance we now have a swing to activist “exploiters’…..cant quite see how that can be any more sustainable or balanced.

    As I pointed out before there are alternatives, we have (had) some of the best agricultural research and development in the world at Lincoln, so why are we in such a mess? Myself I put this down to short term economics and our rip shit and bust attitude to the public domain.

    • grumpy 15.1

      There are 2 decision under the RMA that are relevant, the Rakiai Selwyn decision and the Selwyn Waimakariri. Some of the consents granted were for replacement of expired consents.

      In all cases exhaustive aquifer testing, monitoring and adaptive management were required but ECAN staff (obviously backed by their political Green mates), have (up till recently) refused to abide the the decisions.

      ECAN have shown to have little understanding of Canterbury groundwater and the consent holders, who are required to install monitoring bores in shallower aquifers, with full time data logging would give ECAN a much more reliable scientific understanding of the state of groundwater in Canterbury.

      I do not know about dairying other than it is not a natural farming practice for most of Canterbury, but adaptive management would mean potential huge restrictions on any abstracter and that would likely mean a reduction in dairy farming using groundwater and a shift to arable and pastoral farming using valuable water as drought insurance.

      • BLiP 15.1.1

        Dox or GTFO

      • Bored 15.1.2

        I am not sure how adaptive management works (been away too long) so cant comment, what I am sure of is that any regime for water allocation that ignores the true costs to the public domain will attract trouble.

        I am more familiar with the Manawatu where water is taken from the rivers and returned with toxic soup inclusive. The problem I see there is that a special interest group (dairy industry) has taken upon itself the right to plunder the public domain with little fear of ever having to bear the true cost. I can state that if these people had to pay the true cost they would stop polluting. So while they are not challenged the attitude and practice is a big private sector f**k you to the public.

        • Armchair Critic 15.1.2.1

          Adaptive management is meant to work like this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive_management
          I always thought it was a bit of a buzz-word, thrown about by people who wanted to sound like they knew what they were talking about (when actually they didn’t).
          It relies on a measure of consistency in its application and doesn’t work so well when the process is captured by interest groups or the governing body is disemboweled by the government.
          Apologies if this is double-posted.

  16. Pascal's bookie 16

    Timaru Herald’s got some choice quotes.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/3531434/ECan-ndash-you-re-fired/

    (Nick Smith) said the appointment of the commissioners would be revenue-neutral and funded out of ECan’s rates budget for democratic procedures.

    Well of course it will. Chinese state executioners sending the family a bill for the bullet come to mind.

    Dr Smith said part of the reason he replaced the council with commissioners rather than appointing a commissioner adviser to oversee water management issues, as ECan suggested was he was wary of the outcome of the October elections.

    Got that Cantabs? Vote properly or that nice Mr Key will be forced to deprive you of the option untill you come to your senses.

    • vto 16.1

      “..was he was wary of the outcome of the October elections.”

      That is disgusting.

      Can some journalist or interviewer not try to drag that out to amplify that thought of his there? Sounds like the tip of an iceberg sticking up.

      This is ugly ugly business.

    • Jum 16.2

      If even we are shocked by Smith’s actions things are really getting bad!!

  17. Jum 17

    I took on board about ignorance leading to bad decision making. No doubt many NZers know little about these things. The important point is that they don’t make decisions on those things. Key does; he has science adviser Peter Gluckman.

    How is Peter Gluckman advising Key?

  18. RobertM 18

    I generally agree with Vito, but in reality Hide is right democracy has failed in NZ. Possibly a commissioner should be appointed to run Timaru given that annear has closed the brothels, strip clubs, late night bars and nightvclubs and hardly achieved diversity or law and order. Mark Oldfield is a man of the land an old hayseed.
    The school marks of Mark Oldfield
    SC-1972 English 68
    Maths 55
    Science 72
    History 80
    Geography 80

    UE Accrediting exams
    English 65
    Maths 27
    Chemistry 34
    physics45
    Biology 56

    l974- First attempt at Bursary
    English 45
    Biology 45
    Physics 25
    Chemistry 25
    Maths 20

    1976 Otago
    History C
    Legal System D
    Biology D

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