Central and local government corruption

By Graham Carter

The National Party subverted democracy by sacking the elected ECAN Councillors and replaced them with Commissioners, to facilitate the grab for water and growth of industrialized dairying in Canterbury. They also made sure that minimal compliance work was done to enforce consent requirements and water takes etc. In Canterbury in 2016, there were 376 complaints to E-Can and zero prosecutions. Continuing to deplete groundwater while the catchment is low certainly does not help. That’s the result of a consenting regime put in place by those who did know better, but continuing to issue permits for extraction anyway. Queenstown’s council is allowed to discharge untreated sewage to Lake Wakatipu if they have a breakdown. Manawatu Regional Council recently allowed itself to discharge raw sewerage into a local stream

In 2016 ‘almost a third of Northland dairy farms are significantly non-compliant when it comes to effluent discharges’.

We should also point the finger at the fertilizer companies who produce the bulk of the water-soluble fertilizers that are causing much of the nutrient leaching problems, because they allow farmers to have high stocking rates. Their focus is on sales and profit not the environment.

Take away the urea (almost unheard of in farming practices 30 years ago), the massive tonnages of palm kernel extract imported as feed supplements each year, and ease off on the use of other water-soluble fertilizers and the carrying capacity on dairy farms will have to drop back.

Farming is critical to our economy, so the businesses that benefit from it should be forced to be compliant along with farmers.

Although dairy effluent is damaging to the environment, human waste also presents a danger to us and this is another area where Councils have let us down badly.

Nobody wants dairy effluent or human waste going into the water supply. Nobody on either side is claiming that one justifies the other. So let’s focus on how incompetent and non-compliant our Councils, fertilizer companies and Fonterra are.

 Councils have done such ridiculous things as classified effluent as “treated” simply because it was dispersed by an irrigation system.  The corruption is staggering.

 Planting the margins of the waterways looks pretty and makes the farmers feel like they’ve done the right thing. Meanwhile, excess nitrogen from cow urine and fertilizer leaches through the soil and moves into the aquifers, then makes its way to the streams underground. Out of sight. Out of mind. The only way we’re going to improve water quality is to reduce the number of cows.

Let’s stop making excuses the major issue facing our rivers comes from intensified farming and excess water extraction. This has decreased the river flows and then concentrated any contamination that is present. Land irrigation has only started to occur since the dairying has taken over from sheep farming.

And while farmers are the offenders the Councils have allowed this with the continued allowance of irrigation outstripping what the system can handle.

Science tells us that one dairy cow is estimated to excrete fecal bacteria equivalent to that of 14 humans. NZ ha 6.5 million dairy cows; this is the equivalent untreated sewage of 90 million humans seeping into our waterways.

Councils as well as farmers along with the Fertilizer companies and Fonterra should be held accountable for ensuring that our waterways are swimmable, drinkable and wadeable; held at natural flow (no abstraction); with their natural character (unmodified); and that polluter’s pay.

The Gisborne district council  (GDC) set up a Freshwater Advisory Committee to advise the sitting councilors on matters pertaining to all freshwater under their jurisdiction prior to passing district regulations governing future policy. This GDC freshwater advisory committee is the most unbalanced, stacked committee of any type ever seen or heard off.

There was a very good submission put to GDC on the makeup of this committee, which  was ignored.

If other districts had these so called advisory committees? To what extent have they influenced council policy in respect of the setting of freshwater regulations for the future?

There is also a level of blame that could be appropriated to some Fish and Game councils?

While dairy farming has been and will in all probability continue to be a large scale contributor to water quality deterioration in some areas, The modern style of farming in other non-dairying areas of NZ is currently equal if not more to blame and as new genetic and other so called advances on pasture production are developed it will get worse.

Then we should consider what the National Party is proposed to hand over to iwi as a ‘Treaty settlement.’

In summary, the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group wants:

  • Transfer of title to all Crown owned river and lake beds and title to the water column above to regional tribal groups.
  • Title in fresh water consistent with Waitangi Tribunal rulings.
  • Guaranteed of allocation of fresh water for all marae and marae housing.
  • Free water infrastructure for maraes and marae housing.
  • Tribal participation at all levels of fresh water decision-making that may include tribal representation on councils, joint management agreements, and co-management of waterways.
  • A $1-billion fund of public money to build the capacity of tribes to implement fresh water management and control.
  • Tribal involvement in resource consents or an allocation of tradable water rights.

Regional ratification for the strategy should finish by around now with confirmation of the position of all tribes on water by the middle of next month.

Are you ready to give up water? I don’t think so!

The infiltration of councils and the likes of the Canterbury Water Management zone committees by farming, irrigation, and other related industry groups is the core of the problem.

There are so many conflicts of interest, and is why Ecan looks the other way so often.

But they are well backed up by the government that allows or makes it happen. The government has failed in its duty to protect our freshwater for New Zealanders, and has actively worked to make it easier for that to happen.

Nick Smith as environment minister has a great deal to answer for, and while there isn’t an alternative government in waiting, we certain need him to lose his seat!

Not to mention the blind eye the former minister of tourism has shown to our declining clean green image and the risk this creates for the tourism industry.

It is a ticking time bomb.

A good number of the zone committee meetings are always held during work hours  – no problem for the self-employed farmers to attend, and they packed them out, but the average working man wasn’t there. That’s the collaborative approach they used…organised by Mr Smith’s lackeys…

Then you have the enormous subsidies for irrigation and consequent pollution clean up i.e:

  1. Subsidised Irrigation:

–           $60M Irrigation Acceleration Fund (2011-16)

–           $400M Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd (2011-2016)

  1. Subsidised Clean Ups

–           $100M Freshwater Improvement Fund (2016)

–           $265M Fresh Start for Freshwater (2011)

–           $100M Riparian Retirement Fund (2014)

Nick Smith insisted all the above moneys were “capital loans”.  Guess how much has been paid back to date?

Plus banks are very keen to lend and displace risk to farmers, the current national dairy debt is near $40 billion, Fonterra’s liabilities at $7.6 billion and our national debt at $91 billion increasing at $140 every second.

Water belongs to everyone.

 

 

 

 

Councils and farmers should cop the blame over water quality

By Graham Carter

Recent articles discussing our dying rivers and lakes, followed by a story about the dirty Selwyn River in North Canterbury and the news that a complaint against Greenpeace’s anti-dairying advertising was not upheld clearly point out the main offenders regarding our dirty rivers and streams.

The dairy industry through its various industry media releases have been bleating that it’s not just dairying which is quite correct, but they are the main offending group.

It must be very upsetting to dairying families to read and hear all this and feel the hatred directed at them. However while it’s good to blame the good ol farmer it’s not entirely their fault.

I believe that blame equally lies with our Regional Councils, Fertilizer companies and Fonterra.

NZ is a small country, and we all know farmers. Most of the better farmers are your typical hardworking down to earth, decent, hardworking and caring kiwis, that love the outdoors, go hunting and fishing and very much care for the environment. Some we call friends. They allow us to shoot and gain access through their properties for various outdoor activities.

Every kiwi is responsible for water quality and ensuring that our kids and others stop throwing trash out of the car onto the road, .smokers need to sort their rubbish out responsibly, it all adds up.

There’s also traffic run-off, oil, fuels and emission deposits that make their way into kerbs and ultimately drain into streams during rain…everyone is responsible.

And yes, they have been sold a pup by central and regional Government, and the likes of Fonterra and other industry bodies.

But who are they? Well, if you are talking about the current PM or Minister of Agriculture, they are farmers. If you are talking about the architect of the RMA reforms that bought us wadeable rivers, Amy Adams is a farmer. By far the majority of Regional Councillors in the country are farmers, or have direct links or associations with farms (in Horizons Council it is 80%). This is no accident, but the result of a very deliberate and public campaign by Federated Farmers to get farmers elected to Councils. That has been going on for years. Fonterra will tell you that the company is its shareholders. And who are they? They are farmers. These people were elected by farmers.

John Key pledged to increase dairying as he wants to “lift exports by $14 billion to meet the Government’s 2025 growth target.”  “The conversion of low-intensity sheep and beef farming to dairying had led to increased leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways, which spurred the growth of weeds and algae, and worsened water quality. By 2020, it’s predicted 400,000 ha of land would have been converted into dairy farms in the preceding 12 years.”

Nick Smith wanting water quality standards lowered and to gut the RMA threat to farmers making it easier to allow run-off and extract water. So central government is a big part of problem.

Regional councils have been absolutely negligent in setting up consent processes and then not carrying out even the most cursory of compliance monitoring regimes. However, farmers have taken advantage of this by knowingly and consistently being non-compliant in the belief that they will be unlucky to be caught. At the end of the day we should all respect “the law” because it is the basis of a hopefully just society. The notion that it’s fine to disregard it “when no-one’s watching” is really the beginning of the end of what a good society is all about.

There is a growing number of accountants, overseas corporations, immigrants and business owners that own farms as they see this as a very lucrative money making venture and don’t give a toss about environmental issues as that fits into the expenditure column and they are not in the business of spending money on improvements that don’t ring the till.

Some farmers take the environmental issues seriously doing everything asked of them to reduce the leaching of nutrients from their farms. They have bridged stream crossings, fenced waterways, planted riparian strips and built highly technical effluent treatment systems. They want clean streams as much as any other kiwi.

It isn’t as if the problems with our waterways was a sudden and recent event, it isn’t.

Both the problem and its causes have been known for years. Decades in fact. But it was a very inconvenient truth, and it has been ignored. And I’m not talking about facts buried in obscure scientific journals. Parliamentary Commissioners for the Environment have been publicly warning us for a long time. Pleading ignorance is no longer an excuse.

At the end of the day, whatever else farmers are, they are business people.

They run businesses just like your local dairy owner does.

Farmers, good or bad, also have to own both the ethical and sustainability issues surrounding farming. They may or may not directly contribute, but they do elect the representatives who advocate on their behalf, and allow them to lobby and campaign practices which are neither ethical nor sustainable. They line up for taxpayer subsidized schemes like irrigation schemes when they are offered or suggested. And not just line up, but aggressively attack anyone who might dare question that.

Of course farmers aren’t the sole cause of the pollution of our waterways, and of course Council sewage and stormwater schemes contribute. But again, the science tells us that the 80/20 rule applies here also. The proportion is that small. That doesn’t mean we don’t hold Councils (and Councillors) to account for their actions (or inaction’s), but let’s solve the big issues first. Councils don’t tell farmers how much stock they can carry, that is a business decision that farmers make, along with deciding the farm management regimes they will employ to achieve that.

So I fail to see how the farmers are the ‘victims’ in all this. They must wear the consequences of their decisions, just as we all do.

Lake Tutira in the Hawkes Bay has a serious algal bloom that has been linked to phosphorous in sediment washed off the land by heavy rain. It is the Councils mandate under the RMA to manage natural weather events.

So why does Ecan allow heavy water extraction upstream of the Selwyn well knowing that the river downstream needs the waterflow?

In a Dec 2016 Stuff article “The amount of groundwater allocated for irrigation in Selwyn is 134 per cent of the limit.” To allow Lakes Ellesmere and its rivers Selwyn, Irwell, L11, Harts Creek to dry and become cesspools is the fault of the regulators and those not following their consent rules.  Not to mention leaching of nutrients to feed algal blooms.

So are the Selwyn River problems all about not enough rain? And nothing to do with the taxpayer supported irrigation schemes, with a new one just approved? Don’t think so.

Let’s also consider what the Waikato Regional Council has done around Lake Taupo. As soon as high nitrogen and phosphorous levels started showing up in streams leading into the lake, measures were instituted to stop the leaching of nitrogen into the lake and retire land to forestry. So it can be done. The Great Lakes District Council filters storm water flowing into the lake.

Most farmers have accepted the science – although questions remain, particularly around the use of a flawed nutrient-measurement system like the OVERSEER programme which could but doesn’t record heavy metal runoff, like Cadmium already at extreme levels on 20 Waikato farms.

Up to the late seventies early eighties there was a very good balance between the farming and the aquatic health of rivers and lakes. That balance was due in a large part to the use of clover grass fed dairy on traditional style farms.

Copying foreign industrialized methods and intensifying dairy since the 80’s is obviously one of the reasons that our waterways are becoming the troughs of bacteria they are.

There is also an interesting issue around the enacting legislation for Fonterra which requires them to take all the milk their farmers produce. That had the unintended consequence of forcing Fonterra down the dried milk focus which in turn, as a commodity produce, drives the environmental damage etc!

The farmers are invariably trapped on a treadmill of production for Fonterra as otherwise they cannot continue the job they love. Saying dairy farmers are copping flak for no reason is wide of the mark though. They are copping flak because the way they are farming is ruining the water. Isn’t it funny how Fonterra seem to get away with little mention, it’s almost like the main stream media are turning a blind eye. I remember being able to drink the water in the rivers of Hawke’s Bay and Taupo, when I went for a swim growing up. Now you are brave if you wade in some of them.

We don’t seem to have learned from the past and there is still a drive for increased intensification. This will inevitably lead to more pollution, even if the new farmers are following best practice. Increased nitrogen leaching from more cows cannot be mitigated to any great degree by fencing off streams or improving cowshed effluent systems. More cows = worse rivers!

Yet this government and industry lobbyists continue their push for more irrigation and intensification.

The number of cows per hectare continues to increase and there is evidence this is beyond what the environment can handle.  There should be some limits on cows per hectare as part of consents, and move cow densities to that of 30 years ago.

 The scientific evidence provided by Greenpeace must be correct for the dairy farmer’s complaint against Greenpeace’s anti-dairying advertising not to be upheld.  Too bad if this is upsetting some in the dairy farming community, but let’s point the finger at the bureaucrats that allow this.

Most of our Regional Councils have high staff levels of overpaid desk wallahs that have university degrees and very little farm experience and common sense. Some are very cunning farm owners that manipulate policies to suit their own agendas. These are the very people that we should also be holding accountable. Council staff should be contracted to perform and if they don’t then they should be dumped for their incompetence and disregard for the environment.

 We should be looking at the people that have allowed these issues to prevail, after all they do the water testing, issue consents and over charge farmers for their rates.

The councils should also take some blame for being hard on farmers for some bad farming practices yet hypocritically permit themselves to pump untreated effluent into their own streams.

The pending Court case between Wellington Fish and Game Regional Council and Horizons is a case in point where although standards of the ‘One Plan’ are known to all and sundry, it is its implementation that is the problem.

If a fixed stocking rate per hectare was implemented as suggested it would mean that naturally productive land for dairying would be the most economic and marginal land with high stocking rates supplemented by excessive pasture fertilization and high supplement usage could result in dairy production on substandard land not even being considered.

Another danger is that the provision of water for pastures is being pursued as a political objective to show people in a region that the government is interested in regional development and job creation. The fact that the capital and other costs could total an amount that would keep a greater number of people with a work and income benefit far in excess of the number of so called new jobs being created is something the current administration seems to ignore.

We automatically assume that the current National government are the problem but wonder whether any alternative would be any different.

Then you have business people elected to positions on some of the environmental groups like Fish and Game, Forest and Bird etc that have potential conflicts of interest. For example an irrigation contractor business owner who is in a potential position of influence as the chairman on a Fish and Game Council.

 It’s not always easy determine which other Councillors have no potential conflicts of interest. This is a major can of worms based on a lack of clear definition of what is a “conflict of interest” and how councilors have the ability to get there mates to vote them on – democracy in action?

 The flawed electoral process of these groups doesn’t require candidates to list their interests. They have to be declared at meeting times, but not in the election profiles each candidate writes about themselves, there’s no requirement to inform the voting public.

I have personally witnessed farming in areas which have no direct effects on waterways, but these farms are in locations which will never severely affect waterways; and have seen some practices on farms which do affect the run-off, and water quality. You don’t have to go far to see it.

It’s well past time the Councils were held accountable!

Councils should not be self-regulating, they should be audited by an independent authority, regarding stormwater, wastewater, sewerage so their overpaid CEO’s cannot influence managers and hide issues and allow them to pollute our streams etc.

The actual victims are our grand-kids, who are denied the opportunity to go down to the local creek and catch frogs and cockabullies’ and learn about the natural world like we did, as a result of all this. And that is why I shall continue to fight all the causes, regardless of whether they originate through deliberate actions or through an apathetic disregard of ‘just letting it happen’.

 

Anglers in River Get Dumped on With “1080 Hailstones”

New Zealand trout fishing guide Scott Murray was fishing the South Island West Coast’s Mohikinui River with guests in early December when it started hailing 1080 poison pellets.

“It was like big hail drops hitting the water around us,” said Scott who is a co-owner of River Haven Lodge near Murchison.

Scott Murray and a 91-year-old Californian client and nephew had just landed from their helicopter in the Mohikinui valley when they saw other choppers carrying buckets loaded with 1080 green pellets. Soon after, the toxic hail storm happened.

The 1080 drop was carried out jointly by OSPRI who are charged with possum control work for combating bovine tuberculosis (Tb) and the Department of Conservation who aim to kill rats as part of its “Battle for Our Birds” predator control programme.

The upper reaches of the Mohikinui split into the north and south branches both being wilderness in character. By chance in the Mohikinui on the same day as Scott Murray was Zane Mirfin, a Nelson guide, and two guests. Zane Mirfin’s Californian client was incredulous when Zane explained what the aerial top-dressing with 1080 pellets was about.

Scott and Zane were incensed while both their international fishing guests were startled and almost speechless. Later Scott Murray said his elderly guest was so shocked he was debating whether or not to return to New Zealand in the future. The clients saw New Zealand’s much vaunted “clean and green” branding for exports and tourism as in tatters due to a lack of credibility.

“It’s a bad, bad advertisement for New Zealand. Overseas New Zealand’s 1080 madness is becoming increasingly known and a growing number are shocked at New Zealand dangerous obsession and use of 1080 and poisons generally. It makes me quite angry just thinking about it,” said Scott.

Despite windy conditions the contracted helicopters continued to spray poison pellets around the valley and into the river..

Both Zane Mirfin and Scott Murray highlighted the lack of justification for the haphazard spreading of the poison pellets.

Zane Mirfin described the 1080 bombardment as “a waste of taxpayer money and ecologically damaging”.

“It’s a sheer waste of taxpayer funds on a largely futile exercise, plus irreparable damage is done to New Zealand clean-and-green, 100% pure marketing brand.”

He described the “Battle for the Birds” programme as “a bureaucratic exercise in state-funded rodent enhancement.”

After 1080 drops, within a few years, fast breeding, multi-litter bearing rats explode in numbers with the impetus carrying numbers to over three times pre-poisoning levels. As for bovine Tb, last year The Minister of Primary Industries admitted in Parliament that over 9800 possums autopsied revealed nil Tb infection.  New Zealand has low Tb infection rates in cattle, well below international classification percentage for declaring a Tb-free status.

Footnotes: (a) 1080 was first developed as an insecticide about 1927 but was found to kill birds and animals. Critics label it as an “ecosystem poison”.

(b) For detailed reading, Wairarapa conservationist Bill Benfield’s book “The Third Wave” and ”War Against Nature” are both available through Tross Publishing, Wellington. Email: enquiries@trosspublishing.co.nz

scotty-with-both-hands-full-of-1080-just-dropped

Scott Murray in the Mohikinui River with 1080 pellets that fell from the sky on his American guests and him and into the river.

 

 

 

Federation Says “Whoa” to Smith’s RMA Hurry

federation-says-whoa-to-smiths-rma-hurry

A dead trout in a dry Canterbury river bed – stark testimony to government’s folly.

by James Speedy

The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers has put a hand brake on Minister for the Environment Nick Smith’s wish to hurry changes to the Resource Management Act through. In a letter to the Christchurch-based “The Press” Nick Smith argued he was a not hurrying the proposed bill of changes through Parliament. But the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers was not impressed with the minister’s denials.

Federation spokesman Ken Sims of Manawatu, said Environment Minister Nick Smith’s recent claim that proposed RMA changes were “not rushed’ did not inspire confidence – particularly so in the light of Smith’s recent statements such as: it was “not practical” to clean up degraded rivers, that birds were to blame for water quality declines and that water quality standards should be “boatable and wadeable” rather than ”swimmable.”

“With these in mind, it makes it all the more imperative to proceed with changes to the RMA with extreme caution and full public consultation,” he said.

Ken Sims said the Selwyn River, just south of Christchurch, and the dry river bed was a grim reminder that the current government was both in denial and cavalier about the public’s rivers. A recent article in “The Press” by journalist Charlie Mitchell’s gave vivid descriptions.

“A long stretch of the Selwyn River near Christchurch is barren. Its dry river-bed is snaked by tyre tracks, faint clues of its past as a river disappearing as it becomes a vehicle track. A beloved swimming spot downstream is stagnant. Fish and eels die in their dozens, trapped in pools evaporating around them.”

The Selwyn’s demise was tragically a classic example of the deterioration of the public’s lowland rivers and the implausibility of New Zealand’s “100% pure, clean” tourism and export marketing slogan said Ken Sims. He cited the recollections of current Federation president Colin Taylor (currently overseas) who as a teenager growing up in Canterbury in the 1950’s and under the guidance of the late George Ferris and other senior anglers,  learned to fly fish on the Selwyn. The Selwyn was then a pure, clear and prolific fly fishing river. Today it has been destroyed.

“Its current condition of virtually dry river bed is an example of complete environmental mismanagement,” said Ken Sims.

Tony Orman spokesman for the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations and life member of the Federation said government plans to greatly increase dairying, particularly of a corporate nature, were “illogical and environmentally irresponsible”.

“In tackling its goal and idolizing of growth and to heck with the costs, government is pushing dairying expansion in low rainfall areas like the Canterbury Plains and MacKenzie Basin. Water has to come from somewhere to grow pasture. It won’t come from the sky so it comes from aquifers and rivers which are the one and same thing,” he said. “The result is depleted flows and dry river beds.”

 

 

 

 

 

HELP US HELP THEM CLEAN UP THEIR ACT

An idea has arisen from me receiving a photo of cattle trampling river banks and wading into the Tutaki Stream and talking to anglers and the sense nothing comes of it.

If you are fishing and see effluent, sediment, rubbish, stock or anything in or on the banks of rivers where it should not be, please take a photo, make a note of the name of the river, the address of the farm (or the Fonterra number if applicable), the time and date and send this to me.  I am hopeful of reaching an agreement with DairyNZ and Fonterra that the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers will supply them with photos and details of any such poor practices IN RETURN for them visiting the farm, ensuring the farmer stops such practice AND agreeing a penalty regime that could include stopping milk supply.  In return for this I am suggesting the NZFFA will give Dairy NZ/Fonterra first go at sorting it, as a preference to drumming up negative publicity on continued poor farming practice.  If I feel this is working then I am keen to see if we can extend this approach to Beef & Lamb NZ.

We all want the same thing, fresh water and this might help a little to get us there.

David Haynes

david@solumconsulting.co.nz