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Key vs science on water quality

Written By: - Date published: 9:31 am, August 24th, 2016 - 60 comments
Categories: accountability, farming, health, john key, science, useless, water - Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of the first times Key was actually seriously confronted in an interview was on the BBC’s Hardtalk in 2011. Among the topics was our “100% Pure” slogan and our water quality. Here’s an account in The Listener:

The most controversial part of the interview surrounded the “100% Pure New Zealand” slogan. Here is the crux of the exchange:

Stephen Sackur: One of the country’s unique selling points, and your advertising slogan was all about this, was “100% Pure New Zealand”, the idea that you’re a greener nation than any other in the developed world – that already isn’t true, as your population does slowly rise, and it’s going to get worse. Dr Mike Joy, of Massey University, a leading environmental scientist in your country, said just the other day, “We are delusional about how clean and green we are.”

John Key: Well that might be Mike Joy’s view, but I don’t share that view.

Sackur: But he is very well qualified, isn’t he? He’s looked, for example, at the number of species threatened with extinction in New Zealand, he’s looked at the fact that half your lakes, 90% of your lowland rivers, are now classed as polluted.

Key: Look, I’d hate to get into a flaming row with one of our academics, but he’s offering his view. I think any person that goes down to New Zealand …
Sackur: Yeah but he’s a scientist, it’s based on research, it’s not an opinion he’s plucked from the air.

Key: He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview. Anybody who goes down to New Zealand and looks at our environmental credentials, and looks at New Zealand, then I think for the most part, in comparison with the rest of the world, we are 100% pure – in other words, our air quality is very high, our water quality is very high

Sackur: But 100% is 100%, and clearly you’re not 100% …

The prime minister’s face offers a decent bellwether here. Code: rictus. And try this again for size: “For the most part, in comparison with the rest of the world, we are 100% pure.” To follow up the casual dismissal of a scientist’s analysis with such mathematical wizardry is, as various Twittery types observed, 110% jaw-dropping.

Mike Joy has since rebuffed Key’s remarks. He told TV3: “You can’t argue with the facts, the NIWA reports, the number of threatened species, all of those things are facts … We’ve been conned and we’ve conned ourselves into believing that we’re clean and green…but the reality is that it’s nothing like that. We’re deluding ourselves and we’re trying to delude the rest of the world.”

See the video below (end of Part 1 at 10m47s and start of Part 2).

It is this kind of bullshit denial of science that leads directly to declining water standards in NZ and eventually incidents like the major Havelock North gastro outbreak. Here’s another scientist on the topic recently:

Fresh water results worst ecology professor has seen

An ecology professor says council measures of water quality around Hawke’s Bay are lower than any he has seen before in New Zealand.

Massey University professor Russell Death has studied freshwater in the broader Tukituki-Papanui-Karamu area, which includes Havelock North.

He told Checkpoint with John Campbell macroinvertebrate community composition (MCI) values, which measured the general health of the water, were very low in the broader area around Havelock North.

“A town water supply in New Zealand is infected by many of the pathogenic organisms that live in our water supplies, it’s not surprising at all – in fact, it’s inevitable,” he said.

He said, normally, a very unhealthy river could present MCI values as low as 80, but the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s own measurements had found levels even lower.

“The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have done their own sampling around the Karamu catchment, and that’s where they’ve found MCI values down to 60 which, as I said, I didn’t realise MCI values could get that low.”

He said students he had sent to the area had come back having seen dead animals on riverbanks and asked not to be sent to sample streams so badly affected again.

If that kind of water made its way into a town’s drinking water, it would only be a matter of time before people got sick as a result, he said.

“We have the highest level of many of these waterborne gastrointestinal diseases in the OECD.” …

Surprise surprise, John Key doesn’t believe Prof. Death either.

As long as we accept politically motivated denial of science this country is in trouble. As long as we accept shit in our water another Havelock North type outbreak is inevitable.


60 comments on “Key vs science on water quality”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    Ill just add for the record Key disputing Professor Deaths facts.

    “Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree with Dr Russell Death, professor of Freshwater Ecology at Massey University, that even if we chlorinate all our water supplies, people are still going to get sick from water-borne pathogens associated with the intensified dairy sector, and that another outbreak, as we have seen in Havelock North, is inevitable?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

    Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister understand that New Zealand has the highest level of water-borne diseases in the OECD?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no basis to either confirm or deny that statement.

    Thats a new one. Neither confirm nor deny. I expect to hear a lot more of this one

    • Bearded Git 1.1

      LOL…..what he means is “my farmer friends have told me to say it’s not their fault” or “I haven’t read that report so I can’t comment”. Surely the electorate will have tired of these lies by omission next year?

      Steve Braunias’ Herald piece at the weekend where Health Minister Jonathan Coleman was watching the Olympics on TV in Rio while Havelock North burned said it all.

    • mac1 1.2

      Were there further follow-up questions along the lines of;
      “Does the PM consider this issue important enough to be well-informed enough to be able to confirm or deny?” or
      “Will the PM undertake to become informed enough, using the resources of the state, and report back to this Parliament in a month on his findings? If not, why not?” or “Can the PM advise the House as to what resources he has at his government’s disposal to become informed enough to be able to confirm or deny?” and finally “Does the PM know the term for one who remains deliberately ignorant of matters about which he should know?”

    • NZJester 1.3

      I think John Key and professor Death need to swap names as it is Key who is more like Mr Death to the average New Zealander.
      People have been left suffering in pain or died as a result of his continual denials of the truth. Look at all the work deaths we have seen from his denial that there is a problem in the forestry industry and a death that is almost certainly from the contaminated water in Havelock North. Those are just the tip of the iceberg of the suffering and misery his government have caused people.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    As long as we accept politically motivated denial of science this country is in trouble.

    I’d say it’s at the point that we should probably make that a gaolable offence as it causes so much damage to our country and misery for our peoples. It’s even possible that it’s causing death which would make such lies premeditated murder.

  3. save nz 3

    Great post. The posts from Checkpoint from Paul are fantastic to watch to.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    Professor Death, awesome name.

  5. save nz 5

    Professor Death should be the government’s chief scientific advisor. Then it will aptly describe the National policies of science destruction by their Dr Death.

  6. Righty right 6

    The government is compromised. Because it went boots and all on dairy intensefication it can not act and won’t act against those interests the fact people may have died make imperative to change the government to

  7. Righty right 7

    We are asking a compromised government to admit there wrong that there whole nine years is a disaster for right wing very entitled group that’s impossible given there has been deaths its even harder now the only answer is a change in management with fresh broom I still beleave twe will need a high powered probe into the national party there corruption in now out in the open and visible
    Cronyism is one thing when leads to deaths it cross the line into criminality

  8. Professor key should be ostracized from his university.

  9. TC 9

    They will go all out now to ensure they slam as many measures through to satisfy their backers before the next election that they can bludgeon through.

    Water quality, education, prisons, health, rail etc all on the bonfire of neolib destruction capably led by the shonky banksta.

  10. Richard Christie 10

    Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister accept that the cleaner the water is before treatment, the cleaner the water is at the tap?

    Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not a technical expert, but it sounds logical.

    Metiria Turei: Will the Prime Minister arrange for the review of the wadeable standard and the national policy standard for fresh water management, given his agreement that the cleaner the water before treatment, the cleaner it is at the tap?

    Both Key and Metiria are wrong.

    The answer as to how clean it is at the tap as a function of its initial level of ‘cleanliness’ is dependent.

    Dependent on the nature of the contamination and the nature of the “treatment”.

  11. weka 11

    Good post r0b.

    I think Key’s Hardtalk moment is his equivalent of Lange’s uranium on your breath moment, with everything that says about the difference between then and now and those two men and their intellect, ethics and integrity. Key brings shame on us all.

    • Macro 11.1

      “Key brings shame on us all.”

      Look…. At the end of the day I’m comfortable with that.

      /sarc

      • weka 11.1.1

        ha ha, very good Macro.

      • Red Hand 11.1.2

        “Shame on us all” because we want a first world lifestyle and have failed to make sufficient income from anything but agricultural products. So we need to grow that sector and suck up the loss of a few rivers to get what we want. Just like we got used to no lowland forests.

        • Macro 11.1.2.1

          You are aware that the economy is a subset of the environment – not the other way round?

        • weka 11.1.2.2

          It’s not a few rivers, it’s many rivers. And try running that argument past people in Havelock North.

          There is no reason we can’t have first world lifestyles and clean rivers, apart from greed and ideology.

          btw, tourism is our biggest earner.

  12. “WATER: the extraordinary story of our most ordinary substance

    Water seems ordinary – it pours from our taps and falls from the sky. But you would be surprised at what a profoundly strange substance it is. It defies the normal rules of chemistry, it has shaped the Earth, its life and our civilisation. Without it, none of us would exist.

    Alok Jha, science correspondent for ITV News in the UK, will take you on a dual journey – first, an expedition to Antarctica, and the great ice fields, icebergs and world-shaping weather systems of the Southern Ocean. And second, on a parallel scientific voyage that takes us from the origins of water in the Big Bang, through the beginnings of life on Earth, the shaping of human civilisations and then back out into space as water becomes the key marker in our search for life in the Solar System and beyond.”

    http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=aeb1040afb4474ec7a22ca8da&id=aa3c9c701e&e=8023d58545

  13. Wayne 13

    Whilst Mike Joy has expertise in the area, there is no doubt he has a a very particular viewpoint.

    Therefore he is perhaps more like Jane Kelsey, in that he has a strong background in the area, but acts more as an advocate for a particular view point.

    Therefore not surprising that the PM answered the Hardtalk question in the way he did.

    It is interesting the difference between physical sciences and social sciences. A major current affairs programme would not even think to suggest to a political leader that they should follow the view point of Jane Kelsey by virtue of her being a well known researcher on international trade. They would know it is a contested viewpoint. But such an approach would be quite common in the physical sciences, presumably because when a physical scientist says something they are always, or at least mostly, considered to be correct.

    As for the Havelock case, I would hope NIWA (among others) has a whole team on the job trying to ascertain the cause of the contamination. The public need to know sooner rather than later.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 13.1

      “a very particular viewpoint.”

      What does that mean, Dr. Mapp? “Perhaps” you are more like Jane Kelsey than he is. No wait, I doubt very much whether Jane Kelsey indulges herself in partisan weasel smears the way you do.

      Your conflict of interest is showing, crony-appointment-boy.

      • dv 13.1.1

        “a very particular viewpoint”

        Translation- Joy is a scientist and believes in data.

      • stigie 13.1.2

        “I doubt very much whether Jane Kelsey indulges herself in partisan weasel smears the way you do.”

        I didn’t think people were nasty at the Standard AOB ?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 13.1.2.1

          Oh sure, Dr. Mapp wasn’t being “nasty” at all: weasel smears are just the honest opinion of cronies with massive conflicts of interest.

    • miravox 13.2

      ” there is no doubt he has a a very particular viewpoint.”

      I’d say that very particular viewpoint is very much based on his very specific expertise as an Ecologist.

      It’s a bit of a stretch to liken advocating on ecological facts to advocating on a uninformed viewpoint, as politicians are wont to do. So yeah, it’s not surprising the PM answered the way he did in his politically motivated denial.

      As for the science/social science thing – measuring shit in the water and knowing the factual meaning of 100% is not as murky as interpreting the various inputs and outcomes of human and social relationships where observations are probably not 100% (ikr 😉 ). And I say this as a social scientist who attempts to clarify some of this stuff sometimes).

    • RedBaronCV 13.3

      I don’t really think that NIWA and others will have a big team on the job as all the media indications point to the source of contamination already being known.

      If Havelock is being hooked up to the Hastings water supply at some expense and we aren’t getting stories about bores etc being checked then we are getting the spin on the solutions before we get a look at the problem.

      As to Mike Joy’s particular viewpoint – he has his head down viewing and counting the bits of shit in the water. Hopefully Nact are merely wading in that water – wouldn’t do to skew any counts

      • corokia 13.3.1

        Probably wading through shit to count invertebrates.

        On the MCI from stats.govt.nz River water quality: benthic macroinvertebrates

        ” Macroinvertebrates are measured by disturbing or sweeping a small representative area of riverbank and bed with a net, and sieving out the macroinvertebrates. They are then identified under a microscope.

        Macroinvertebrates are reliable continuous indicators of the health of their stream environment. This is because they are relatively sedentary and long-lived (surviving for a year or longer), and respond to multiple stresses or changes in their location (eg pollution, habitat removal, floods, and droughts).

        The MCI complements other measures – such as chemical monitoring, which only reflects the condition at the exact time and place of sampling, and might miss the presence of a short-lived pollutant or an unanticipated type of disturbance.”

    • Pat 13.4

      you are entertaining if nothing else Wayne…..a simple examination of the evidence demonstrates which “viewpoint” is the correct one.

      Rather than attempting to inject politics into science the country would be better served by the reverse.

    • Ad 13.5

      We may as well run that interview as a campaign video for the next election.

  14. righty right 14

    doctors death and joy deal only in the truth while key deals in lies and bullshit literally

    • Garibaldi 14.1

      The truth of the matter is we have to give up farming ruminants. WE HAVE TO TOTALLY CHANGE OUR WAY OF FARMING . If we want to survive then the damage we are doing and have done to our land and water must be addressed NOW. The situation is that serious…. we can’t afford to wait and see. This will mean a total change of direction for this Country. The whole concept of the environment being an unlimited resource for us to do as we wish with is one of our greatest mistakes as humans.

  15. corokia 15

    “Whilst Mike Joy has expertise in the area, there is no doubt he has a a very particular viewpoint.”

    So, if researchers in a particular scientific field discover evidence of harm, or damage to say a river ecosystem (using the example of a fresh water scientist) or perhaps tobacco, or asbestos being implicated in lung cancer (using the example of a medical reseacher),
    what actions should those researchers take Wayne?

    In your opinion, is speaking out about their discoveries the ethical thing to do in the public interest , or is it just them acting “as an advocate for a particular view point”?

    • North 15.1

      Don’t react to Wayne Corokia…….he’s nought more than Keydashian’s top paid troll under that spittley, pious veneer. Not in the bucks ‘cos a lifetime of troughing has him all well made up……but in more sinecures on the public purse, and probably an ambassadorial post somewhere. Before November ’17. Oh God…….how painful the ’18 recall will be.

    • Wayne 15.2

      Fair point. But I would want to know there was a consensus before I accepted the viewpoint. It is not as if he cannot express his view based on his research. Obviously he can and he will. And presumably will get funding for his research.
      Case in point; Jane Kelsey got a substantial Marsden grant. The govt doesn’t influence that and neither should they. I spent a bit of time pointing out to colleagues why Marsden and other such funds must be independent. For obvious reasons researchers with all points of view have to be funded so as to get a contest of ideas.
      Should NZ stop intensive dairying. It depends on the evidence. Perhaps on some places. Certainly more work needs to be done on abatement.
      But do we actually know the cause of this pollution. Is it actually intensive dairy?
      That is why I would want NIWA and Landcare on the case. If Mike Joy is correct he has to be validated.

      • Wayne 15.2.1

        By the way, no-one asks or suggests that I should make my contributions. In fact, given some of the responses I probably shouldn’t. I know some of my friends think I definitely shouldn’t.
        I do so because I like a debate. I also think echo chambers, whether left or right, are boring so providing a different point of view livens things up a bit.
        Though I do think some of the insults get too personal. Even suggesting an alternative viewpoint seems too much for some people.

        • North 15.2.1.1

          How crashingly proper yet delightful of you Wayno……you like a debate. Hail fellow well met……chortle chortle. Hitch up the pants on the dinner suit boy. Do you have an inkling of the caricature you are ?

          Other people are forced to love the back seat of an aging Honda Odyssey in the park on the corner of Sykes Road and whatever that other one is that leads into Alfriston. In Manurewa. Where the Polynesian people just ‘laarv’ Mister Key. According to the fiapalagi you’ve lassoed with promises of status and fortune. Like your shockingly patronised Peseta Sam. Whose family from Fasito’o regard as a fucking scab. The guy who reckoned that it’s easy peezy for ordinary people to save up a hundred and thirty grand for a deposit on a house. What ???

          Do you really give a fuck ? Well yes……of course you do. It’s your reflex to tell everyone how much you “care”. You could undoubtedly point to many, many instances where you’ve publicly proclaimed your “care” for “folk”.

          In the big tally-up you’re no less a privileged conman than Keydashian for whom you troll with such passive aggression. So enough of your cloak of the considered, earnest man bullshit. You’re a classist snob and a wicked trougher who’s ridden on the backs of New Zealanders forever. You deserve not a scintilla of respect. Shame about your pearl clutching, weeping mates and their drama queen – “Why Wayne, why…….why do you suffer it ? These people…..!”

          Fuck off is what I’m saying. You’re a bugle for Keydashian. And as vain. I’m putting myself in the heads and hearts of the people forced to love the back seat of the unregoed, unwarranted vintage Honda Odyssey as I write this. The people for whom you so, so, so ‘care’. Plump charlatan you.

        • Ad 15.2.1.2

          There’s a few things wrong with your logic of waiting.

          I think there will be a few water scientists and engineers at Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Hawkes Bay District Council, and Hawkes Bay District Health who thought they should wait before confirmation bias set it. Maybe just hold off for 24 hours before another set of results set in.

          But they were wrong. About 4,000 sick people wrong. And so are you. Politicians who are good at their job should get out their way when judgements are being made about public health issues. They should apply their megaphone to assist the public, not do the usual delay and avoid.

          If Prime Minister John Key were held to the same logic of waiting at this Hawkes Bay inquiry that you are deploying, he would be held negligent. OMG I think there’s something in the new Health and Safety legislation on this.

          Secondly, waiting for some putative time at which all science is settled is really code for ‘enforce the existing order’. Roll that logic through human medical history over the last century, and you have placed the political order into only the most reactionary purpose possible. Let’s see … apart from asbestos, there’s the Unfortunate Experiment at National Womens, lead in petrol, how to deal with mental patients, how to ‘care for’ Australian aborigines and Maori … you head down a pretty inexcusable slope of medical malpractice.

          Also, trying your own version of an ‘apples v pears’ argument comparing a legal scholar to an environmental scientist is the kind of thing that gets politicians into all sorts of trouble very quickly. Imagine if the logic of ‘I can’t trust one academic, which thus gives me license to mistrust them all’ was applied to another class of human being: politician. It’s a view of human beings that is exceptionally cynical. And easy.

          Which is of course why National Ministers generally hold this country back. They prefer not to listen. Prefer to keep the system in check. Prefer to false-equivalence, and slippery-slope, and smile to camera. Prefer to wait until all the results are in. Prefer to slur the dissenters and hound them out. John Key isn’t the worst but he sure ain’t the last. And yes, good old New Zealanders have to wait for Labour to reform and clean out the – literally this time – crap they chose to leave behind.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 15.2.1.3

          If you don’t like insults why do you author them? What “alternative viewpoint” have you offered, other than to imply that Dr. Joy’s professional opinions are predetermined and/or politically motivated?

          Projecting your behaviour onto him is straight out of your playbook.

        • Grant 15.2.1.4

          Wayne “I do so because I like a debate.”

          Right up to the point at which you encounter a question or counter argument you don’t have an easy answer for. Then the only indication of your recent presence in the debate is a distant trail of dust and small pebbles heading rapidly towards the horizon.

      • Poission 15.2.2

        There is no intensive dairy in that catchment, an obvious problem (and not a binary one)

        As it is an interesting and complex problem ,sometimes the mechanical mechanisms in similar cases such as Norway in 2007 ( Where a number of fire practices,lowered the water pressure allowing back flow and ingress into the bores and water supply ) low probability event hard to predict.

  16. Leftie 16

    Paul posted the following link on the Daily Review.

    Waatea 5th Estate “Water vs Intensive Farming”

    In studio – Agricultural spokesperson for Greenpeace – Geniveve Toop
    On skype, award winning columnist and intensive farming critic – Rachel Stewart
    Environmental Scientist and ecologist with Massey University – Dr Mike Joy
    and also joining us tonight on the phone, Green Party Spokesperson on rivers and clean water – Catherine Delahunty

    <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEYQ-nkAuGc

  17. Observer Tokoroa 17

    .
    . Key – BBC boos him verbally. Just like Auckland loudly!
    . and where is McCaw when his best closest loveliest friend needs him.

    . I am here to tell you that Mr Key is not polluted or contaminated. In spite of all our numerous waters being seriously poisoned, they are in fact pure like himself.

    . We are so lucky to have this world class Fool – as our Prime Minister.

    John Key runs the: Act Party, The United Future Party, The National Party, the Maori Party – and the Slipshod Speaker of the House.

    . Aotearoa – the land of deceit.

    .

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