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A legacy of poisoned water

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, April 28th, 2017 - 66 comments
Categories: national, quality of life, useless, water - Tags: , , , ,

We won’t be able to say that we didn’t have ample warning, with a another detailed and damning report on our water out yesterday. The Herald has a good summary:

‘Damning’ rivers and lakes report: Nitrogen levels rising, fish threatened

A major report out today makes a sweeping assessment of how our lakes and rivers are faring, and the news isn’t good. Science reporter Jamie Morton takes a look at what it reveals.

Another major stocktake has painted a grim picture of New Zealand’s freshwater environment, showing that nitrogen levels are rising and three-quarters of monitored native fish species are nearing extinction.

The 100-page report, published today by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, has been described as “damning” by the country’s largest independent environmental organisation, which is calling for a dramatic reduction in cow numbers.

The report, measuring a range of indicators including water quality and quantity, and the welfare of biodiversity, confirmed that urban waterways were the most polluted, but declining trends in pastoral areas were just as concerning. …

It’s a long and depressing summary, with sections titled: How polluted are our waterways? Native species on the brink, Our vanishing wetlands, Who’s taking the water? Freshwater issues ‘not new’ – minister. Newsroom summarises five takeaway points:

1. There’s a shocking amount we don’t know about our water.

2. Government swim-ability estimates are different from officials’ estimates and nobody yet has a good handle on how to measure it.

3. Canterbury farms account for about a quarter of New Zealand’s freshwater consumption … we think.

4. City water is facing a multi-billion dollar stormwater problem, and animal urine is an amazingly potent rural polluter.

5. Whitebait is in dire straits, and there’s a real prospect we will lose some of our other native fresh water species, too. …

On RNZ:

NZ needs to act now on rivers, top official warns

New Zealand cannot afford to wait to address the problems with fresh water, Ministry for the Environment head Vicky Robertson says.

A landmark report from the ministry, released today, describes serious challenges facing the country’s rivers and outlines how fresh water is under increasing pressure from agricultural and urban areas.

The report found freshwater biodiversity was declining and 72 percent of native fish were threatened or at risk of extinction – as were about a third of freshwater plants and invertebrates.

The Environmental Defence Society called today’s report alarming. Its chief executive, Gary Taylor, said the report laid the problems with fresh water bare.cHe said farmers should be required to obtain resource consents for agricultural land use in sensitive catchments, to set maximum levels of stock.

“It’s all very well setting water quality limits in a national policy statement and in a regional plan … but in the end I think we need to reduce the size particularly of the dairy herd in New Zealand by about a third. “Particularly in these more sensitive catchments where we’ve got serious pollution.”

Federated Farmers said it did not want more regulation on land use and farmers were already doing the work to help restore degraded water. …

In related news see:
New water guidelines labelled “sneaky backdoor attack”
Federated Farmers: It’s damn lies and alternative facts
When the river runs dry: The true cost of NZ water
“No-one owns water”
National is ruining our rivers

This current National government isn’t going to leave much in the way of a legacy. Does it really want to be remembered for allowing the poisoning of our water?


66 comments on “A legacy of poisoned water”

  1. Janet 1

    Whats new. We have been saying the diary takeover of everywhere a cow can stand is wrong, for years for years, and not only for water quality reasons , but for the need for farming New Zealand to stay diversified and ultimately sustainable and we are fourth, fifth and sixth generation NZ farmers. But who listened ! Who acted ? Nobody !
    Change the government to one who understands how this world works, naturally.
    Look for the Lorax….. it’s sure not Steven Joyce who only thinks of biggering and biggering.

    • Molly 1.1

      Hi Janet.

      As farmers, did you manage to get heard at all by Federated Farmers or Fonterra (if you are a shareholder?).

      What avenue do farmers such as yourselves have to get heard at national body level? (I’m just thinking it may be very difficult for sustainable method farmers to be heard, and wonder if there is a place for them to go)

      • Janet 1.1.1

        Exactly right as sustainable lifestyle farmers have no voice and actually threaten political directions where production gains over ride environmental outcomes….

        • roy cartland 1.1.1.1

          Janet, it’s time to bring your sustainable and conscientious farmer mates over and stand with the greenies on this. It’s you and us against the destroyers, not greenies against *all* farmers.

          I’m actually pro farming, but anti-taking-the-piss, as I imagine you are.

  2. Jenny Kirk 2

    “This current National government isn’t going to leave much in the way of a legacy. Does it really want to be remembered for allowing the poisoning of our water?”

    They don’t care. They probably all have swimming pools and don’t ever swim anywhere else – so it doesn’t matter to them if others want to swim in lakes or rivers.

    • keepcalmcarryon 2.1

      No its worse than not caring and its worse than “allowing” our water to be poisoned.
      This government is actively subsidising the poisoning of our water.
      Its not accidental, its not poor management , its active destruction.
      What else do you call policy of doubling primary production, including a half billion dollar taxpayer irrigation subsidy and removing democratic protection by gutting ECan?
      Take a look at the Mackenzie country next time you are down that way and see what they have done. Then read the reports on loss of native habitat.

      Labour, be definitive on this, its time for waving the stick on water allocation and breaches of consents. Its time to cancel some allocations and enforce nitrogen caps on all our farming systems.
      This pollution is not accidental, its government policy.
      Do not let the National government get away with this.

      • Fustercluck 2.1.1

        Nitrogen and phosphorus caps are key. Its not the the number of cows or dairying itself, it is the rampant over-fertilizaiton of the land that is hosing the water.

        We have a perverse system with the fert co-ops where the amount of rebate farmers get is based on the amount of superphos they use. There is a structural incentive to pollute.

        Never heard a word about this. Ever.

    • Chris 2.2

      A good protest could be taking a few cows for a swim in a few of those swimming pools.

  3. Ad 3

    The political upside for the opposition is there’s nothing National can do through to election day.

    The increasing damage will increase due to the massive irrigation schemes and weak regulation by South Island regional councils.

    To turn it around you would have to alter whole District Plans – which is years worth of leaking legal poison. Which means for years to come it will be really really hard to halt, before you get to reversing the trends.

    Mike Joy’s suggestion this morning of replacing the $400 million irrigation fund with a $400 million reparation fund looked incredibly practical. Hope a future government picks up on it.

    If that doesn’t happen I’m just gong to keep writing cheques to Forest and Bird. They are the real river protectors in this country.

    • Rosemary McDonald 3.1

      “Mike Joy’s suggestion this morning of replacing the $400 million irrigation fund with a $400 million reparation fund looked incredibly practical. Hope a future government picks up on it.”

      Has the bones of a solid campaign….Action Station or the like?

      Or we could all boycott dairy products until the dairy herd is reduced and farmers are held accountable for polluting.

      Low impact dairy farming is possible ….http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/water-fools/story/201841352/water-fools-sacred-pipi-beds-polluted

      “Mr Watson and his wife Sue milk about 280 cows in the flood prone Waiotahe Valley and in the past five years they’ve halved the number of cows and switched to once a day milking.

      The new system requires less expensive feed, less fertiliser, and less work.

      It was a more sustainable way of farming and the family had not looked back, said Mr Watson.

      “We’ve basically not quite halved the amount of effluent we create.””

      Perhaps more focus should go on those who make a real effort to reduce environmental impacts from dairy farming…

      • Janet 3.1.1

        I agree , the fastest way to start to turn the situation around is to work with the farmers to motivate them to voluntarily adjust their farming systems. A lot of public education is needed to help some of these farmers see ways forward out of this predicament that they in many cases unwittingly have found themselves in.

  4. ianmac 4

    It is hard to know what to add to the above column Anthony. Such a depressing outlook. Sighs loudly.
    Sorry kids. Back then we didn’t realist that we had it so good and now the Government just ignores our concerns.

    • gsays 4.1

      Hi ianmac, I can add something.
      There are a few more sobering aspects to intensive farming.
      Recently ‘spray and pray’ has been highlighted.
      This has a massive impact on soil structur and it’s ability to function, e.g. hold water, nutrients etc .

      Sorry if any of this is teaching you to suck eggs.

      Seemingly harmless practices, none of it sustainable.

  5. saveNZ 5

    The government has failed every body. Canterbury sounds like a basket case where it’s too dry to run cows in many places, let alone cram more in and steal the community water.

    The farmers could diversify to another less water intensive farming measure for goodness sake. Even if the government helped them, still better than stealing and polluting the water.

    Don’t blame the farmers, it’s the government leading the charge and changing the laws to make it so.

    Maybe somebody can read ‘the golden goose’ to the Natz, in parliament today. It might be over their heads so get the opposition to get a few sock puppets to mime it out for the yokels.

  6. tc 6

    Ffs hang this albatross around national/acts neck, shout loudly about it and let the chips fall where they may.

    Farmers vote national so go hard labour/greens

    • saveNZ 6.1

      Although similar left blame discourses to the National party discourses against beneficiaries… not sure all the ‘bad’ Kiwi polluters goes down well if you are trying to get votes…

      Labour and Greens need to get away from punishing and blaming and try something constructive. Most farmers are not educated lobbyists pushing the government – they are more just trying to run their farms with industry telling them to put more nutrients on, banks giving them money to expand… etc etc They are not rocket scientists – just do what they are told and try to have as little government involvement as possible.

      The sad thing is the government’s policy is to drive out family farms that are more sustainable, and the ‘new’ mega farms run by big business.

      That is the worry for farmers and the Greens and the public.

      • tc 6.1.1

        Becoming tenants in our own country is another issue they need to be bashed over.

        Stuff the nuanced approach go for broke and keep it simple

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.2

        Labour and Greens need to get away from punishing and blaming and try something constructive.

        Why shouldn’t we hold people accountable for their actions? Especially when they’ve known for decades the consequences of those actions.

        Most farmers are not educated lobbyists pushing the government – they are more just trying to run their farms with industry telling them to put more nutrients on, banks giving them money to expand… etc etc

        If they’re that uneducated then they shouldn’t be in business and most definitely shouldn’t be allowed to run a farm.

    • McFlock 6.2

      An albatross?
      wouldn’t that curse them to stay at the helm of the country while everyone else was dead?

      “there was a country” said he…

      • saveNZ 6.2.1

        It’s not actually getting the left any votes by the blame game. Just pushes the rural industry to the Natz on a platter and turns them off change.

        • tc 6.2.1.1

          Imo the rural community always votes blue, efforts to swing them are a waste of scarce opposition resources.

          Agree with dtb that if the blame fits wear it and in this case its blatant from encouraging intenstification/corporate model/neutering water standards/hobbling and gutting govt depts with environmental briefs etc etc

          Screw the softly softly and call them for the wreckers they are. Motivating the non voters is crucial and a strong message is required.

        • McFlock 6.2.1.2

          Actually, my comment was just a lighthearted observation that the albatross analogy is from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, whereas if we want this government to sink a millstone might be more appropriate…

          Anyway, as to “blame game”, as TC points out the farmers who don’t care about waterways don’t vote leftish anyway. The ones who do care will also be pissed about the rest of the country subsidising the polluters.

  7. Cinny 7

    A legacy of poisoned water and a legacy of pristine water exploitation for export.

    An excess of nitrogen should be utilised instead rather than used to poison our waterways in the name of greed. Would it be appropriate to have some sort of ‘cap’ on large scale commercial dairy farms? Seems sensible to me considering the damage that is happening to the environment.

    Maybe farmers should be growing nitrogen loving crops to absorb the excess nitrogen in conjunction with their nitrogen excreting dairy farms.

    Maybe if they did they would find the crops possibly making a great profit for them than the cows? After all nitrogen loving crops include medical marijuana, the economic benefits of which would be massive for NZ. Not to mention the benefits of a crop which requires no herbicides or pesticides to grow, as well as absorbing excess nitrogen from the soil. Would be a win win for the environment and the economy. JS.

  8. The Fairy Godmother 8

    It’s so awful and humans do not need cows milk. Infants and young children do fine on just mother’s milk. We could have breast milk banks for for children with no mothers or mothers unable to feed them and a culture that supports 2 years paid maternity leave. There is no reason to consume cows milk.

    • saveNZ 8.1

      Sadly under 30% of Kiwi mother’s breastfeed exclusively up to 6 months which is the recommendation from World Health Organsisation. Yet another bad statistic….

      • The Fairy Godmother 8.1.1

        It’s a tragedy when the natural age for weaning is sometime in the sixth year. Human infants along with other primates are very helpless and undeveloped compared with other mammals such as cows which are on their feet soon after birth. It’s about what we value as a society. I am rereading Marilyn waring counting for nothing at the moment and it seems to me some of the most valuable things such as our environment and mothers milk have no monetary value and therefore our society doesn’t care.

        • Rosemary McDonald 8.1.1.1

          “I am rereading Marilyn waring counting for nothing ”

          +lots and lots. 🙂

          (A vastly under acknowledged work by both the right (Oh my god!!! Unpaid work has value!!!) and the left (We’re not going give credit to work done by a former National MP!!!).

  9. Antoine 9

    Is whitebait munted because of whitebaiting, or for some other reason?

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    We shouldn’t be surprised. Many farmers have lobbied to prevent effective regulation of farms and the pollution that they produce and our government have supported them. What we need now is a government that will bring in string regulation and enforcement of those regulations. If this means that some farmers will go under, well, that’s the nature of the market.

    What we cannot afford is to continue to allow them to pollute our waterways.

  11. Venezia 11

    And Bill English, in his usual dishonest way, on the news last night, blamed the urban population for the disgusting state of our fresh water sources. Non one in MSM pointed out that urban sources are 1% of the total. Farming occupies 40% f total.

    • David Kinane 11.1

      Yes that bias was in the Herald reporting yesterday I felt. Emphasis first on the urban waterways masked the rural devastation.

  12. Draco T Bastard 12

    It’s possibly OT for this thread but I think it has bearing.

    When the river runs dry: The true cost of NZ water

    The Government says nobody owns the water, but that hasn’t stopped people making hundreds of thousands of dollars selling it, reports Eloise Gibson

    The message trickled down from Bill English a month ago, albeit in watered-down form.

    New Zealand will probably not start charging businesses to use fresh water, English told the AM Show, because it is too difficult and would upend a century-old convention of letting people have it for free. “You’d have to work out pretty basic things like who owns it? What would you charge them?” he said.

    But in the absence of a Government price tag, the market has put a value on water in some of our driest regions: between 70c and $1.60 for a thousand litres – a cubic metre – and most recently about $1.

    It’s not just this governments inaction about protecting our waterways that’s poisoning our water but also the fact that excessive licenses have been dished out by the councils and now people are making a massive profit on that declining availability.

  13. Wyndham 13

    All the way through this National Party water debacle there’s one MP whose name pops up repeatedly – – – Nick Smith. He has vigorously defended the government’s point of view often lambasting those that query him in parliament.

  14. I see we are moving onto a ‘ safe ‘ topic…

    How ‘ nice’…

    How ‘ neutral ‘

    How ‘ banal’….

    ‘Water Quality ‘

    Here’s a working class solution , – why not prosecute the offending bastards and be done with the fucking issue?

    Get on top of it and shit all over the offending party’s heads?

    Make em scared to let even one dairy cow piss in a creek.

    Ever heard of Riparian planting and fencing ???

    Instead of your bullshit pussyfooting around and entertaining yourselves online with the latest online fad on how bad the world has gotten post 1984 , – put your money where your mouths are and campaign to bring the offending fuckers to court , – and while your at it , – start naming and shaming councils, corporations and backyard farming outfits who collude in the whole neo liberal charade.

    Grab a pair of balls and get on with the fucking job.

    We’ve only got until September until we get to kick the arse of this shithead govt – and that’s only 5 fucking months away you fools !!!!

    • marty mars 14.1

      Dairy is indeed out of control as are city folk having their water wastage and not giving a shit about their shit – maybe you’re doing your bit maybe you can look in the mirror, maybe… can you say you are not also implicated and responsible for this disaster.

      • WILD KATIPO 14.1.1

        The best bit anyone of us can do is vote this govt out in September.

        And from there we work backwards.

        Theres not a lot of good wringing our hands on the sidelines going tut tut tut, is there ?,… that’ll change nothing. Screw the bastards. The only way we get change is by the vote. And if there’s one thing about this blogsite that turns my gut is that it tolerates those who come as wolves come in sheep’s clothing.

        Che Guevara had a saying about inner city / urbane communists :

        He called them ‘ useful tools’.

        And the reason he viewed them as such was because they were tantamount to being like tits on a bull. Always seeking for the ideal / optimum conditions before they got off their fat bloody arses and did anything. They were viewed by the rural people as liability’s while they did all the heavy lifting and shed their blood fighting the Batista’s.

        You want change ? … vote in Labour with its support party the Greens and NZ First.

        Then you will see some action.

        Then you will see some accessibility and positive measures to end this literal load of shit in our rivers.

    • All very nice for future economic initiatives but I want to swim in a fucking river and not contract E. coli / campylobacter diarrhea , thank you very much.

  15. Sittin here in the middle of suburbia listening to a possum burping and farting and growling , … the Pukekos have gone into mating and nesting and all I’ve got is some scrub introduced cats screaming as they fight over who gets the latest questionable 100 square meters of turf to brawl over…

    FFS ,.. lifes tough on a country lad living in the city.

    Ferk your lattes .

    Just do the right thing and vote for Labour , the Greens or NZ First.

    Preferably Labour as that will bring the rest of them onboard.

    • bugsolutely nz 16.1

      yea that will fix it, different snouts at the trough. Its not till we make fundamental changes in the way we treat this planet that it will start to heal.

    • Janet 16.2

      Still kind of hoping The Lorax will appear and lead the way forward… in other words there is nothing, no one out there that I am convinced meets all the needs of leading NZ at the moment. Very disconcerting.

  16. Tautoko Mangō Mata 17

  17. timeforacupoftea 18

    The report failed to say salmon and trout are the biggest threat to our native fish species are which nearing extinction.
    They could start by removing trout and salmon from the rivers and lakes.

    Some small towns are still dumping sewerage in lakes and rivers.
    You would think they should have been fixed by now.

    If any dairy farm is dumping in rivers they should automatically be shut down.
    For all farmers livestock and cropping, If runoff from paddocks after heavy rain enters rivers same sort of cop especially if no in paddock ponding areas have not been established.
    It has been pointed out to me from time to time around Otago Southland and Canterbury where topsoil is washed off paddocks straight into creeks and rivers during storms etc.

    Perhaps no swimming or wading in rivers either until they are clean again.

    I would be interested to know how clean the mighty Clutha River is, the river always looks perfect but you do see a dirty stain as small streams and rivers drain into it for a few hundred meters down stream then it is clear and beautiful again and probably drinkable.

    • keepcalmcarryon 18.1

      It failed to say trout and salmon are the biggest threat because thats unproven?
      Also pollution kills introduced trout too. What you have spouted is the fed farmers line.
      The actual stuff we do measure isnt comfortable for farmers to talk about though is it:

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/91956116/serious-pressures-facing-rivers-government-report-finds

      “t found nitrogen levels were worsening at more than half of the measured sites. Nitrogen levels were worst at urban sites, but were declining significantly in pastoral areas.

      The decline in pastoral areas coincided with an increase intensive agriculture. Nitrogen leaching from agriculture had increased by 29 per cent since 1990, it said. The main source was livestock urine”

      Remembering of course urban acounts for 1% land area, agriculture 40%

      • timeforacupoftea 18.1.1

        In reply to :
        (keepcalmcarryon 18.1
        29 April 2017 at 8:34 am
        It failed to say trout and salmon are the biggest threat because thats unproven?
        Also pollution kills introduced trout too. What you have spouted is the fed farmers line.
        The actual stuff we do measure isnt comfortable for farmers to talk about though is it:)

        Please !
        KeepCalm : All I said was from my husbands and his friends 60 years of fishing knowledge not fed farmers as you suggest.
        These guys lure fish using imitation white bate lures all season and catch trout with stomachs full of white bate.
        Did Gary Taylor ask enough lure fishermen if they had much luck with imitation white bate lures. Our guys don’t know they were never asked.

        • keepcalmcarryon 18.1.1.1

          Fed farmers ran an attack against fish and game (protectors of water quality) implying trout were the baddies and that fish and game somehow protected freshwater carp (invasive pest species), which was rubbish.
          Certainly trout eat whitebait no question.But that effect has been constant since establishment, if not declining recently, yet Native fish are even more threatened.

          With introduced trout numbers in decline in polluted waterways, and habitat loss and pollution major factors in native fish decline, the increased threat to native fish does mirror the increase in pollution were are learning of, rather closely do you see.

          I think we should at a minimum ban the sale of whitebait and ideally close whitebait fishing altogether.

          PS: Fed farmers perverse logic says that your husband and friends have contributed to native fish decline by supporting Fish and Game!

          Read this clown:
          http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/91008689/taking-aim-at-fish–game-over-conflict-of-interests

  18. millsy 19

    Everyone forgets that when all these fancy irrigation schemes come online, they arent going to be run as a charity. They are going to be run for profit. So when the farmers get the bill, they are going to be under pressure to make even more and more $$$, and our rivers are going to take more of a pounding.

  19. Philj 20

    Katipo. I would call Health and Safety to ensure I am safe before I go for a swim. Lol. The Banks have the farmers by the proverbials. Getting farmers to be indebted,
    they are trapped once they have the costly irrigation systems. And the Government(taxpayers) are paying for this!

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