Mohaka needs you!

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.

Hear hear!

11 Comments Posted

  1. Banning whitebaiting Shunda? The very thought!
    I was interviewed last year about the situation and misquoted on that very point. There was some negative response, mostly reported through the grape vine, but a surprising amount of support for the idea as well. Recreational baiters, as you said, aren’t the main issue, it’s the black marketeers that are doing the damage and many of those fish at night. My solution would be a ban, but on the sale of whitebait. The outrageous price provokes the greedy take. The usual process of promoting the fish as a creature that is worthwhile protecting, and the work of Landcare groups, Fish and Game etc. in creating wetland habitats is all good, but the whitebaiters, marketeers and destroyers of habitat and water quality are winning the race by a country mile. The condition of the oceans isn’t going to help either. Don’t know how warmer and more acidic is going to help or hinder the young bait when they’re all at sea.
    Best action – do something. If you are planting streamsides, it’s going to help. If you are a trout fisherman, don’t practice ‘catch and release’. Eat ’em before they eat us (speaking for the galaxids there).

  2. “Kowhai are a tree that’s value has yet to be recognised”

    I agree, but not just for nitrogen, the flowers feed all nectar feeding native birds and the Kowhai caterpillars in summer could be a significant food source for Kokopu if the trees are overhanging water.
    I have been propagating big numbers of Kowhai this year and the ones I have planted around my home have flowered heavily for the first time, Tuis and Bell birds are here in abundance at the moment.
    What are your suggestions greenfly? Banning whitebaiting? to be honest it wouldn’t worry me, I think these fish have much more than food value. I think a war would break out if you tried to do it though, especially on the West Coast. My goodness you would have a war on your hands 🙂

  3. A new approach Shunda? I do have suggestions, but you wouldn’t like them. Kowhai are a tree that’s value has yet to be recognised, more as a leguminous creater of nitrogen in the soil than anything else. If we could broadcast a multitude of those out into our environment, we’d be making some good ground. Every ‘stand’ of trees and shrubs, whatever the purpose, needs a central nitrogen fixer for it’s long term survival.
    As to the galaxids and the streams – beware the flood gate my son, and the field tile too. They are the destroyers. There’s no magic word, bar abracadabra, and that has only limited effect. I’ve an old friend who is one of the two Doyens of Kokopu in NZ. What the two of them don’t know about the starry fellows, can’t be known by anyone. Most farmers don’t get excited about planting flax? Ever considered why that is?

  4. A six metre Kokopu? I believe I would like to see that, had it just eaten a greenfly? (I am sure they would enjoy the odd aphid or two 🙂 ).
    As far as a sustainable fishery, I am unsure, there is still not enough data to rely on. My personal feeling is that the only place it may be sustainable is on the West Coast, due to there being plenty of habitat remaining (although still heavily reduced). Even then I think the money that some people are making from Whitebait is obscene, and many don’t put a cent back into protecting the fishery. I am not anti whitebaiting but I think there is a big difference between the bloke fishing for his own use and the bloke making 20 grand a season.
    I think one of the key issues is restoring smaller waterways that don’t support trout, as Galaxids seem to be like trout ice cream. The problem even on the West Coast is that many of these waterways are now on farmland and really need to be fenced of for riparian planting to take. That’s the amazing thing about these fish, they only need a tiny waterway (that is healthy) to survive, I remember as a kid the stream that had the most fish was a very small creek that supported 3 of the main species in abundance, as well as crawlies.
    I am trying to think of a new and novel way to rehabilitate these streams, perhaps using something like Kowhai that people value in order to sell the idea, most farmers just don’t get excited about planting flax. Any ideas greenfly?.

  5. Good on ya Shunda – that’s the way! Channel some of your discontent toward the sods who emperil those little fish. I built a huge kokopu for a parade (6 metres long) and have made lots of noise down here about the whitebait ‘harvest’ (sustainable, that fishery, do you reckon?)
    Lots of kokopu get caught by the eel fishermen and destroyed, dumped and damaged along the way. They are a magnificent fish. If you wanna talk galaxids, I’m on.

  6. Good post frog, I am beginning to become quite interested in protecting waterways from this sort of degradation. I used to have a more sympathetic view towards farms in my region, until I met a few more farmers!!
    I have been doing some research on the local Galaxiid species and it has only enhanced my affection for these magnificent native fish. Many of these little critters are being turned into whitebait paddies as I type, so the least we can do is ensure that the ones that survive the spring sieving have clean water to live in.
    I reckon the Giant kokopu would have to be one of the most magnificent fresh water fish in the world,(turns out all Galaxiids are named after this fish) protecting remaining environment is essential for this species as is rehabilitating as many waterways as possible. Unfortunately many of the ideal waterways for this species are small streams on flat land, the ones most likely full of cow sh!t. But a bit of riparian planting and overhead cover should see many more of these fish make a rapid come back.

  7. Comercialise and harvest our seaweeds! Hoooorah!
    Tidy up our beaches and sell, sell, sell!
    What could be wrong with that?
    It’ll be made into pig food, and cattle food – hoorah again!
    Then… and this is the beauty of it…harvest the growing seaweeds as well! It’s on the cards and the Fisheries ministry will announce the great news next week.
    I know I’m excited!

  8. The plaintive cry of horse hair drawn across cat gut, the snap, crackle and pop of a Roman city, burning. But NO ! we mustn’t demand that no fires be lit, it’s their right to raze, just as it’s our lads’ right to graze.

  9. Farmers have stalled and sidestepped around the RMA by quoting ‘effects’ and ‘encouragement’ ad nauseum. In fact,well founded regulation lets everyone know precisely where they stand.

    This could be an excellent test case. Those soils need careful treatment, or the effluent will pass right through and into the Mohaka. As appears to be happening.

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