Russel Norman

Wet bus tickets OR Clean Streams

by Russel Norman

The latest compliance figures on the Clean Streams Accord are due out on Thursday. Fonterra, in an attempt to front foot the issue – hinting that the Accord report will be bad news – has released a proposal to penalise non-compliant farmers a $3000 fine. It’s simply ‘a wet bus ticket’ approach to dealing with polluters – pathetic.

The Greens propose that Fonterra has to take much more responsibility for their suppliers’ environmental performance, given that they have substantial leverage, the economies-of-scale to fund and support improvements, and are key to NZ’s export and tourism brand. We’ve promoted a much more robust penalty scheme, stating that Fonterra should simply cancel the milk supply contract with farmers who are persistently and illegally polluting our waterways.

Previous compliance figures in Clean Streams reports have raised some eyebrows among organisations working on water quality, as there are basic flaws in the reporting structure that has meant that the figures are vastly at odds with data collected by regional councils, for example.

Forest & Bird and Fish and Game pointed out last year that the Accord does not actually monitor water quality as part of its reporting structure, and that in the five years since the Accord was signed, water quality in our lowland lakes and streams has actually declined. Not only that but the 2008 report averaged averages – a complete statistical nonsense.

The issue was highlighted on Sunday morning’s Insight programme on RadioNZ National, where I was quoted on what we are actually trying to achieve in this process:

I think most New Zealanders have the ambition that their lowland rivers and lakes are safe for their children to swim in. Once we got rid of the lowland forests, the last wild places on the plains and the last places held in common for everybody, are the rivers. And when the rivers become so polluted with effluent and nutrient flow that you can’t swim in them or use them or fish in them anymore, then they’re no longer held in common because you can’t use them, and they’re no longer wild places because there’s no wild fish or any other kind of wild animals in them. If we’re going to retain the last of the wild places on the plains, and the last of the places held in common, then we need to restore our lowland rivers and lakes, and it’s entirely possible to do that within a generation, if we have the will to do it.’

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Russel Norman on Mon, March 9th, 2009   

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