The Dompost on Saturday reported that a debate about landuse and water quality is deepening in the Hawkes Bay.
The Mohaka River has a Water Conservation Order on it. However its quality is declining. One tributary comes from the volcanic plateau where land has been converted from forests to industrial-sized dairy farms. [See my earlier post of Fish and Game's underwater video showing the mixing of the polluted Taharua into the pristine Mohaka waters.]
One of the Taharua farms is a Crafar farm and has been convicted of illegal effluent discharge in the past and given a record $37,500 fine at that time [now surpassed by the $90,000 fine for a Waikato Crafar farm].
However, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is grappling with the problem that even full compliance with effluent discharge rules will not arrest the decline of the water quality. The Chair has written that:
…science now strongly suggests that three large intensive dairy farms, on a small catchment with light volcanic soils, are overloading the Taharua stream with nutrients, which is then detrimentally affecting the Mohaka River, particularly in its upper reaches.
Baybuzz recently wrote about a Council meeting where this was discussed.
In a meeting yesterday full of promising aspirations to clean up the Tukituki and allocate its water, to rescue the Taharua River from nutrient overload, and to “engage” dairy farmers in the Bay, our Regional Councillors just couldn’t bring themselves to utter the word “regulate” … as in require land use practices that would mitigate unacceptable water pollution. Even when posed as a “last resort” option to deal with the hard cases.
Haven’t we learned?
If we don’t regulate builders, we get water-logged homes.
If we don’t regulate financial institutions, we get fleeced.
If we don’t regulate medical practitioners, we get maimed or worse.
In each of these cases, we legislate formal standards and then enforce them.
The HBRC Chair Alan Dick replied that the Council is willing to regulate, but only the “effects of land use activities and the consequent non point source discharges that are generated”. However, when regulating effect is not enough, regulating cause is needed. Sadly, an attempt to get the Council to agree to simply investigate regulating land-use was rejected.
These soils are simply not suitable for dairy environmentally, or economically given that 2 of the 3 farms are apparently now in receivership. It seems a good opportunity for the Council or Government to buy them and plant some sustainable forestry.
The decision of the Council is to be considered by the whole Council this Wednesday. The Mohaka is a national treasure – Water Conservation Order are for “nationally outstanding” waterbodies – so it is quite appropriate for all Kiwis who love the river to have a say, not just those who live in Hawkes Bay. The Council needs to strongly regulate cause and effect to clean up the Mohaka. You can email the Chair of the HBRC - Alan Dick .
Baybuzz also reported that at the recent HBRC meeting, someone called Simon Lusk commented:
Councillors should be aware that the interests of a limited few to make a profit out of a public good is not a platform that has lead to enduring electability. Voters in NZ and overseas have taken direct action at the ballot box to protect water.