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Our dirty water

Written By: - Date published: 11:54 am, May 11th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: Conservation, farming, john key, water - Tags: ,

John Key didn’t much like being confronted with the facts on our dirty water, so he cynically attempted to trivialise the science as “one person’s opinion”. He sat there on international TV and tried to pretend that everything is just fine, when it isn’t.

No surprise to find this attitude mimicked in National’s policy on water. They are trying to pretend that they’re doing something when they aren’t. I’m going to quote the whole of I/S’s post at No Right Turn on this:

National’s incoherent fresh water policy

The government is hyping its new fresh water policy today. From the PR, you’d think they’d committed to cleaning up our lakes, rivers and streams, and ending dirty dairying forever. The reality is rather different. The key instrument – a new National Policy Statement on fresh water [PDF] merely requires regional councils to change their policies to set maximum limits on water takes, establish cleanup targets for polluted waterways, and end overallocation. That’s a good start, the minimum necessary really, but there’s no urgency in this process. The deadline for implementing the NPS – that is, for establishing the policies, rather than cleaning up the actual waterways – is 2030. So, in 20 years, every council will have set targets. Woop-de-fucking-dooh.

Meanwhile, to “balance” this underwhelming “commitment” to clean water, the government is pumping $35 million into subsidising irrigation. Which means effectively pumping $35 million into producing cowshit, which will go straight into the same waterways they supposedly want to clean up. Its not just incoherent – its directly undermining the policy they’ve just established.

But the important thing is that they can claim they are Doing Something about fresh water. Not right now, and not effectively, but they get the headline now, and no-one will pay attention to the nasty details. Again, its the triumph of PR over policy. But that’s National is all about.

The Nats won’t get away with this will they? Surely our media watchdog will see through the spin? Hah hah:

Fonterra welcomes water pledge

Giant dairy co-operative Fonterra is welcoming the Government’s announcement it will put $35 million into an “irrigation acceleration fund”, saying water can be turned into wealth. …

He [a Fonterra rep] acknowledged community concerns about declining water quality and the need to address “legacy issues” of pollution. “We acknowledge that dairy’s continued rights to water access are dependent on responsible use and efforts to address water quality,” Mr Wickham said. But Fonterra also called for the Government to set national environmental standards and a national water strategy to accompany its new policy statement on freshwater management.

The national policy statement – which required individual regional councils to set standards – should be closely aligned to a national water strategy sitting alongside environmental standards which provide the necessary national consistency in target setting for water quality.

Yeah, they’re going to get away with it all right. Fixing dirty water would mean the Nats reining in their farming mates. Not going to happen. Instead we’ll get nonsense policy, and nonsense reporting, and more shit in our water.

26 comments on “Our dirty water ”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    But but but, if we only subsidise their irrigation, and and pay to clean up after them, and pay their ETS liabilities for them; then we get to pay global market rates for some milk and the industry can turn a healthy profit as long as the capital gains keep clocking in.

  2. ianmac 2

    It seems that the Greens can get a little toe-hold on the need:
    “The clean green New Zealand brand is worth $18.4 billion, but this asset is at risk unless we take immediate action to restore our waterways. To be effective in the long-term, our brand must reflect reality,” Dr Norman said.”

    Fonterra from the huge Dairying industry says: “Fonterra also called for the Government to set national environmental standards and a national water strategy to accompany its new policy statement on freshwater management.”

    Whereas O’Reilly says: “Phil O’Reilly admitted the country faced some real environmental issues, but said Dr Joy’s article was full of hyperbole.”

    Key says dairying does pollute our rivers but we are 100% Ok to walk in the mountains and smell the fresh air, and anyway there are a lot of countries that are worse than us!

    But we say get National Standards in place now! ECan was not emasculated to bring in NS. It was to carry out Pascal’s concerns.

    • Bored 2.1

      I would love to take Shonkey with me when I go fishing in the Manawatu system and shove his vacuous head deep into the water to test the cleanliness level up close and personal. To have him claim as he did that we are clean green etc is a disgrace. To then compare us to other countries as justification is also disgraceful: he does not know the conditions here or there. More to the point what conditions are like in other countries is of no relevance, pollution here is pollution here.

  3. todd 3

    That interview shows that not only is Shonkey in denial about our polluted water, he doesn’t give a damn. National are actively supporting the polluters with the public’s money and trying to trick the public into believing they’re doing something. The medias compliance in that lie is equally disgusting!


  4. Salsy 4

    We need a tax on dairy exports in order to clean up all rivers. Its astounding that Kiwis tax payers faced with paying record amounts for dairy products also pay to clean up the mess plus we cant swim in 90% of lowland waterways – we need to start fighting back, seriously.

    • Peter 4.1

      Yeah, we need another political party to promote the billions in tax savings that can be obtained if costs incurred by private businesses (many farmers, financiers, insurers etc) were not passed onto the greater public. We’d have a Budget surplus in no time.

  5. Quentin 5

    Farmers shouldn’t be stigmatized when we talk about environment. We should in fact show the good example of some farmers managing their water usage in a sustainable way, creating hedges and fencing to prevent cattle roaming onto the waterways. If the increase in irrigation funding is accompanied with increased protection of the waterways then it can be good for the environment. The question is not so much how much they take from the rivers but how much and how polluted is the water that returns to it.

    • vto 5.1

      ” If the increase in irrigation funding is accompanied with increased protection of the waterways then it can be good for the environment.”

      But it isn’t Quentin, it is in fact the complete opposite. Increased irrigation accompanied with zero protection. You would think that the farmers should clean up their existing shit before getting to make more shit.

      But no.

      • Quentin 5.1.1

        I know it isn’t.

        I was just trying to say that farming doesn’t have to mean polluted river. I fully understand that there is absolutely no real environmental progress contained in the NPS on freshwater (there were great ideas in the draft but all these got shoved aside to leave only an empty shell). I am a keen whitewater kayaker, I have witnessed the dire health of our river.

        I just think that rather than just saying that all farmers are to blame, we can look at ways to solve the problem and applause the few farmers taking real steps in that direction. The Greens should try to work with the farmers and people living of the land to get more sustainable while still achievable outcomes, rather than just point at their faults.

        Lets not play the blame game, lets try to find solutions instead.

        • vto

          I usually agree with that sentiment, but not at this stage of the farmer vs environment battle. And make no mistake, it is a battle. The way this government has presented the water issue the last few days is entirely about taking from one and adding to the other.

          It is either the environment or it is the dairy farms. That is the only conclusion that can been taken from these policies. No other.

          On top of that, blame can stop when farmers honestly stand up and accept their role in polluting these rivers. Currently they think they are blameless, or rather, the country should just put up with it so “everyone can buy flat screen tvs” or whatever dumb-arse argument Federated Farmers comes up with next. For evidence please see all commentary from Fed Farmers last few years.

          So I don’t agree with your “we are all in this together” sentiment. Not for a while I suspect.

        • jimmy

          The Greens ran a good farm stories mini-campaign a while ago.

          Country Calendar is also a very entertaining resource on organic farming. It is amazing to see some of the classic farmer types talk about how they have never looked back on changing to organics. The main bonuses being less rainfall needed to break a drought and the lack of pest issues once the soil and pasture build a proper ecosystem. One guy even said once his pest issues were gone farming became pleasurable again.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I was just trying to say that farming doesn’t have to mean polluted river.

          No it doesn’t have to but to make it so that it isn’t it is necessary to cut down the number of farms and the intensity of those farms making it so that the pollution that comes from those farms can be dealt with by the environment. National is going in completely the opposite direction at the farmers behest.

          I just think that rather than just saying that all farmers are to blame,

          All farmers are to blame. They certainly aren’t taking any responsibility for the pollution that they create and they’re demanding that they be allowed to produce more and National are planning to help them to do so with ~$400m of our money and paying for their greenhouse emissions from our taxes.

          Time to tell the farmers to fuck off.

    • NickS 5.2

      Slight problem, while most farmers follow local council guidelines and rules to a T, often the guidelines etc have holes, and in Canterbury you’ll often see cattle grazing along side small streams with no fencing or stopbanks to control run off. Partly, that will be sorted out as scarab beetles are introduced, but there needs to be changes in the rules to create buffer zones of bush and scrub around freshwater streams etc.

      The question is not so much how much they take from the rivers but how much and how polluted is the water that returns to it.

      Wrong. Water flow in rivers directly impacts on river health, and this is especially important with braided rivers where decent flow rates and regular large floods help stop the river bed ecologies from becoming more degraded and thus prevent further lose of habitat. Floods also deal with didymo build-ups restricting how think that mats can become and thus preventing it from taking over braided river systems, and as such this makes the damming of rivers such as the Hurinui a somewhat problematic idea, more so when combined with the crap water holding properties of the local soils.

      Then there’s also the inconvenient fact that very little of the water taken out is going to find it’s way directly back into the places it’s taken from, as respiration by plants and animals + other biochemical processes results in water lose to the atmosphere and lock up with in organisms.

  6. freedom 6

    Ok, if it wasn’t the power companies, the mining industry, the meatworks, tanneries, dairy, horticulture, agriculture or forestry, who do we thank for the destruction of our waterways!

  7. bobo 7

    Or maybe Key should go for a swim on auckland north shore beaches after heavy rain the day before. I guess he is very effluent as Kath n Kim would say.

  8. vto 8

    I am disgusted.

    We taxpayers pay for the dairy farmers to make shit and then we taxpayers also have to pay to clean up the dairy farmers shit. We pay to make the shit and then we pay to clean it up.

    On top of that we poor taxpayers have to pay the same rate as the richest milk buyers in the whole world, meaning that some of us taxpayers simply have to go without milk.

    Seriously, how does that work? In any sense? Anyone know? Who’s taking the piss? Is this bunch of cabinet arseholes serious?

    It is at this stage that the blood boils … and the mouth (keyboard) should be kept firmly shut. Though perhaps a Harawira approach to proceedings is in order?

    • terryg 8.1

      Upon reading this thread, I envisioned a crack team of eco-terrorists, sneaking into farms in the middle of the night and shitting into the farmers household water tanks….the anti-poo-dean peoples front mayhap? 😀

      • r0b 8.1.1

        You’re a bad, bad man terryg!

        • terryg

          no shit 🙂

          ideally the Anti-poo-doin’ Peoples Front* would drink a few glasses of premium Manawatu river water in the days beforehand, thereby ensuring both low viscosity and high flow rate ;>

          It did make me wonder though – is poo thixotropic? or do I just eat too much ketchup o_O

          * didnt think of the -doin’ bit until just now. *sigh*

          • vto

            So is a Harawira approach in order?

            edit: and what does Sue Bradford have to say about that?

            • terryg

              Alas Vto, thats just not going to help. Maori Hui might be advanced enough to have gotten past tone trolling, but westminster politics sure as shit hasnt (apostrophes’s”s are hard). One fucking cuss word, and all further discussions will be about that alone, regardless (Mrs. Palin, THATS the word you kinda meant) of the actual substance – e.g. see Hone’s treatment.

              Seriously though, slipping manawatu river water into the appropriate water coolers/drinking glasses might be kinda fun.

  9. pepeketua 9

    STOP PRESS. Breakfast just played the first part of the 100% Pure part of the Hardtalk interview… and are now debating brand. it will no doubt turn out to be pap – but at least they played it?

  10. HC 10

    The sate of our rivers and lakes is the result of a failed economic policy by increasing dairy exports simply by increasing volumes. What dairy products do we export? It is milk powder, butter and cheese of mostly basic quality. What governments should have been encouraging is more value added production of high quality standards. OK – we now get camembert, blue vein, cottage cheese and some other products on supermarket shelves, yet truly high quality dairy products are still imported from mainly Europe and sold at high prices. If we would use the milk produced to actually produce such high quality products here, then we could earn more money by polluting less.

    It is appalling that the tax payer will pay for cleaning up the rivers polluted by farmers, but apart from the big farmers not all are as wealthy and high income earning as many think. They are also part of the economic chain and at the bottom end, producing the raw product for further processing.

    NZ is slowly but surely self destroying by increasing intensive farming to produce low standard products – rather than create more value added production and to diversify further.

    But with this government we cannot get much foresight, when national cycleways and tax cuts for the better off are the supposed “recipes” for economic development. It is insane and shows the low quality of people sitting in Parliament, many of whom are catering for certain lobbyists and otherwise self serving themselves.

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