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Guest post – Bucking the trend at ECAN

Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, July 10th, 2019 - 26 comments
Categories: christchurch earthquake, climate change, democracy under attack, national, same old national - Tags:

Environment Canterbury (ECAN for short) is going through something of an existential crisis. The Board should be the vanguard for those promoting environmental concerns (after all, it’s in the name). And yet, for almost a decade there has been little ‘walk’ to go with the ‘talk’.

It began in 2010, when the National Government overthrew the democratically elected Council; arguing that it was so dysfunctional that it was no longer capable of doing its core function. Of course, the real reason was that a majority of the Council had dared to oppose the intensification of dairy farming and irrigation schemes in Canterbury. In place of elected Councillors, National put a team of Commissioners in, who gleefully proceeded to ensure that the irrigation and dairying interests got precedence over environmental issues.

Fast forward to 2016 when a partial democracy was put in place. This was itself a broken promise by National, who had pledged to restore full democracy that year. But under the guise of structural stress supposedly arising from the quakes, Key’s mob determined that we weren’t yet ready to make our own decisions. Faced with seasoned Commissioners, and a senior ECAN staff in thrall with the Commissioners’ direction, the newly elected Councillors struggled to make any meaningful difference to the environmental damage in Canterbury’s waterways and country-side. They also failed to get any traction around any integrated public transport plan. Things got so bad that Extinction Rebellion staged a major sit in to force ECAN to consider declaring a Climate emergency. No amount of subsequent talking points by ECAN can disguise the ongoing lack of leadership on climate change from the very local body tasked with providing it.

No such trouble down the road at the Christchurch City Council. There the Council has taken a lead on promoting environmental issues. And one of the strongest voices has been ex-Mayor, and current Councillor Vicki Buck. Unlike the erstwhile Councillors of ECAN, Vicki has thundered against a raft of policy failures she has seen coming out of the Tuam Street HQ. Water quality; air quality; declaring a climate emergency; promoting an EV bus fleet: Councillor Buck has been a leading voice for them all.

But now the thunder has reached a new level. In a recent public post, Vicki Buck has castigated ECAN and its Councillors over the decision to allow nitrate to leech into Canterbury’s aquifers. I quote:

Ecan – and nitrates coming into your drinking aquifer with their blessing
• Those bloody nitrates … sometimes it’s impossible to read Ecan’s agenda and not explode !!!

Plan change 7 is coming up at Ecan’s meeting this Thursday (11 July 2019).

Its the one which allows nitrates to leach under the Waimakariri River4 and into our aquifer …from which we draw your drinking water .

The current level is about 0.4mg/l . Their proposal is to take it to 10 times that amount !!!! And they seem to have ( well I cant see it anywhere ) nothing that penalises any farmer that doesnt meet the requisite standard. But they are allowing a decade before the first lot of reductions kick in , and then its only 15% and then another decade before the next lot ( also 15% ) does .

On page 74 of their agenda ( although it would be hard to identify cos plain English is not what its written in the issue of Plan Change 7 . https://api.ecan.govt.nz/trimpub…/documents/download/3665272

The attachments , sadly , are not in the agenda … apparently we’re just supposed to take them at their word …

Then they want to have it all done and dusted this side of the election because then it seems you can only appeal on a point of law … whereas the fundamental issue here is the protection of a city’s drinking aquifer which has been completely excluded from the consideration in the report that was consulted on !!! Christchurch City Council is not on the Waimakariri Zone Committee.

So we are all only going to get a month for submissions …from July 20th by the look of it ..

The City Council has submitted in total opposition to any increase in nitrates on this – and , as you can see- been totally ignored. Just as the Waimakariri ZIPA report on which its based didn’t even think to consider the cost to everyone in the City of damage to its drinking water aquifer .

It considered the cost to farmers in the affected Waimakariri area – but nothing in the economics about the city …or your health . Ecan argue constantly that the nitrates are “in the post “ but they are taking action incredibly slowly to restrict them . They could go much much faster .

Then just to add insult to injury they suggest ( p111) that there should be more research done by the Government about the harm nitrates cause and they are going to write and suggest it !!! Well… .bugger me …if you’re not sure how much harm they cause -despite a lot of research why the hell are you letting them come into our drinking water !!!!

Be ready to do some serious submissions… cos this is -in a word – revolting!

Vicki’s post is getting a lot of public support, and it’s easy to see why. The current elected Councillors seem no more effective in standing up for the environmental crisis facing Canterbury than the Commissioners who did the damage in the first place.

For ten years the trend at ECAN has been to prioritise short term commercial gain over the damage to our local environment. Cantabrians elected people in 2016 to change that. But, as Vicki is so forcefully arguing, on issue after issue they aren’t delivering it.

When it comes to leadership on Climate Change in Canterbury, we’re seeing it from Vicki and the City Councillors who are supporting her: including Turner, Cotter, Johanson, Livingston, Galloway, Chen and Clearwater (never a more apt name!)

Vicki is retiring from the City Council this term: but I doubt she’ll be retiring from supporting Climate Change. Maybe she’ll put her hat in the ECAN ring, or maybe she’ll be on the side-lines. But what Vicki won’t be is silent. She’s been the leader we’ve needed at ECAN but haven’t had. Thank Heaven she’s bucked that trend.

If you’re in Otatauhi this Thursday morning, join Vicki and Extinction Rebellion as they challenge ECAN to overturn this disastrous decision and stop nitrate leeching into our waterways.

Anthony Rimell

26 comments on “Guest post – Bucking the trend at ECAN ”

  1. Kevin 1

    Does the current government have any plans to restore full democratically elected representatives to ECAN?

    • Anthony Rimell 1.1

      This year the ECAN Board will be fully elected. It's time for a change there, that's for sure!

      • greywarshark 1.1.1

        Edit
        I hope that means that the ECAN Board will be fully 'ejected', and those few who are seasoned battlers against the vandals with the National imprimatur will be returned with other elected people ready to bear the right responsibilities to good governance.

        ECAN (National decadent and redundant type) – Exterminate, Exterminate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-9M69-rdE8

        Those in Christchurch who believe in good conservation and careful distribution practices regarding water, and the environment generally must for Christchurch's sake, be sure to vote and elect really ethical, responsible, knowledgable people. Then ECANT will drop its cant and be ECAN!

    • Rosemary McDonald 1.2

      Does the current government have any plans to restore full democratically elected representatives to ECAN?

      Now that is a very, very good question. It would be a true indicator of the Coalition's commitment to democracy.

      • Dukeofurl 1.2.1

        Nationals 2016 Environment Canterbury Transitional Governance Arrangements Act non democratic members expires this year.

        "Under the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Act 2016 the Council has completed a representation review for the 2019 elections and must now return Environment Canterbury to a fully democratically elected Council. "
        The biggest change is Christchurch now has 8 members rather than previously 4
        https://ecan.govt.nz/about-us/your-council/elections/

        There seems to still be restrictions on appeals that are different to other regional councils

  2. Ad 2

    Who intends to stand there this year?

    Would Vicki Buck have a go? Or is that the intent of her post?

  3. WeTheBleeple 3

    The research is already in. Nitrate, nitrite and ammonia are all poisonous to aquatic species. The fact ANY nitrate is present in the water suggests the natural systems are already overwhelmed.

    I have a tank here that reads 0 nitrate. This after twenty years stocked with fish. These are the readings I would expect to see in 'clean' waterways, where plant extraction = fish excretion.

    But in their model there appears to be excrement in the council dishing out excrement in policy to deliver excrement in the water supply – it's a shit show.

    A poison supply is handy if you want to sell expensive bottled water. Also if you're keen on privatising and profiting from health – toxic water would be a boon for business.

    As for the koura, kokopu, inanga, eels, arthropods, amphipods and more… They're merely an abstraction to accountants.

    The so called call for more research is typical smoke and mirrors BS where a direct cause-effect relationship might be questioned e.g. nitrate – cancer. But when you dig deeper it is a serious issue.

    "Nitrate per se does not appear to be carcinogenic in animals or humans in typical exposure scenarios, but a significant portion (∼20%) of ingested nitrate is endogenously reduced to nitrite, which can then undergo nitrosation in the stomach with amines and amides to form N-nitroso compounds. 3,4 Nitrosation may also occur in the large intestine and the bladder. 4 N-nitroso compounds are some of the strongest known carcinogens, 2 can act systemically, 5 and have been found to induce cancer in a variety of organs in more than 40 animal species including higher primates.

    And that's the back-door for mealy mouthed shits who propagate the spreading of shit.

    "Nitrate per se does not appear to be carcinogenic in animals or humans." < = How criminally dishonest people read the above paragraph.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Yes I've seen this in Australia where it's common to use chloramines to disinfect town water supplies instead of straight chlorine as we do here. If you have an aquarium and use straight town water the fish die within 24 hrs.

      Also relates to aquaponics where there is a continuous cycle of fish excreting nitrates then the bacteria/algae converting it to nitrites which the plants then use as their food supply. The clean water is then recycled back to the fish. There are lots of variations on this idea, but I've always regarded it as very cool tech indeed.

      • WeTheBleeple 3.1.1

        My tank I describe is one of the first aquaponic systems. I am one of a handful of pioneers and claim this distinction cos I worked f'n hard at it and spread the knowledge through Aussie and US websites and publications. I did not bother promoting the technology here in NZ as with our rainfall back then it seemed a superflous white elephant. Watching how crap our zoos are at keeping native fish alive they could do with some help – but have you ever tried to help an 'expert'…

        Besides, there were a myriad other things to be explored.

        Mine is possibly the first ever (well stocked) system to not require cleaning for decades. First to breed kokopu in captivity!

        NZ has enormous potential for aquaculture via iterations of this concept.

        Check dams on drainage systems. Food chains off the nitrate. Aquaculture off the food chains…

        Thinking required.

        P.S. The cycling from fish waste is: ammonia – nitrite – nitrate.

    • Kevin 3.2

      FFS, that is disturbing reading.

  4. ECantabrian 4

    A pity the elected councillors from Christchurch have not been up to the task – here I mean Steve Lowndes (Chair), Cynthia Roberts, and Lan Pham. ECan needs a total clean out.

    • Sacha 4.1

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/109312967/ecan-approves-higher-level-of-nitrates-in-christchurch-drinking-water

      Christchurch drinking water will be able to contain more nitrates from pollution for the next 50 to 100 years, Environment Canterbury (ECan) has decided.

      The elevated level of 3.8 milligrams of nitrates per litre of water was proposed by the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee, due to polluted water flowing into aquifers from North Canterbury dairy farms.

      ECan councillors Lan Pham​ and Iaean Cranwell voted against the proposal at Thursday afternoon's meeting.

      • Grumpy 4.1.1

        Thanks Sacha, a good link that reinforces my point made below. In my experience high nitrate levels normally occur when the ground surface is disturbed, allowing surface nitrates to enter the higher aquifers. Large scale development for housing or roading (including dairy conversions) would account for this. Note the photo in the article of a nitrate barrier under construction that would act as a surface filter.

    • greywarshark 4.2

      You may be too harsh. It is hard as a minority trying to hold the line.

  5. Philj 5

    Thanks for posting. What ECAN needs is a good enema. Followed by a drip feed into the near dead corpse of dumocruptcy. The folk of Canterbury have been cheated. Good on Vicky and other caring humans. This is excrement.

  6. Grumpy 6

    The current level for Nitrates set by ECAN is 11.3g/m3. The level for USA is 10g/m3.

    As far as I am aware ECAN is looking at reducing the allowable level to match other countries such as USA.

    I suspect this is a beatup.

    • Grumpy 6.1

      Looks like ECAN is looking to reduce it's limit from 11.3g/m3 to 4g/m3, surely a move that should be applauded. The current reading according to the post is 0.4g/m3, extremely low by any standards,

      • ianmac 6.1.1

        Not so Grumpy. One of the Canterbury rivers, (Rangitata or Selwyn?) ECan wants to increase the limit to 14 or 15g/m3. (Not sure of the facts just that recently they intend to increase limits.)

        • Grumpy 6.1.1.1

          You may be correct about that. I have several shallow wells by the Selwyn. When we built the new house I had the water tested and it was 11.7g/m3. The well was only 8m with a standing level of 1m. On the theory that the nitrates were a result of site works we pumped for several hours and obtained a test of much less. After building the house, I put the well down to 25m and got a very good test. The Selwyn and Rangitata have high nitrates, the Ashburton area particularly. In discussions with Ecan and Selwyn DC I would be surprised and shocked if they changed the limits upwards, high nitrates seem to be associated with shallow wells, the solution is just to go deeper.

          My earlier comments relate to the Christchurch water from the Waimakariri.

          • ianmac 6.1.1.1.1

            Very interesting Grumpy. Good to have some real data. You are right about the Waimakariri and there will be an ongoing problem because of the "lag effect." I can't find what I thought was being discussed about raising the limits but see that Christchurch has voted for a limit of 3.8 and is building filters to protect the City water supply. Hope a new Elected ECan committee is created.

          • WeTheBleeple 6.1.1.1.2

            The solution is not to go deeper. WTF?

            The solution is to stop the pollution entering the waterways in the first place. Your shallow well readings show they have failed in this regard.

            It's not just about your well water but ecological health, biodiversity, conservation of threatened species, clean green image/marketing, and the Treaty of Waitangi.

            • Dukeofurl 6.1.1.1.2.1

              Yes thats right . Once the shallow wells would have been OK . A simple view would see the nitates going deeper over time as I understand the artesian flow has a time based component as you go deeper

          • Ian 6.1.1.1.3

            The Rangitata has minimal nitrate levels .Managed Aquifer Recharge trials have been highly successful in reducing groundwater nitrates and groundwater levels using Rangitata water.

            • WeTheBleeple 6.1.1.1.3.1

              Using alpine water for aquifer recharge has got stuff all to do with farm pollutants in Canterbury waterways and is a red herring from the actual topic. Note they don't recharge during rain events, as the runoff from farms is still problematic.

              Good on them for recharging the aquifer. It's still poor compared to retrieval. Added to this, why is ECAN paying for all this when it's the farmers and industry draining it?

              All that engineering.

              One word, myriad uses to the environment: Wetlands.

  7. Gabby 7

    So does Bill Bayfield have the ceo position in a death grip?

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