So, 27 organisations in the Manawatu region including city & regional council, industrial players, iwi and environment groups have signed an historic agreement, committing to clean up the polluted Manawatu river.
Great stuff. Only problem is, the farmers aren’t playing ball. Federated Farmers have so far refused to sign the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord, not because of tough standards or costs imposed on their members, but because of emotive ‘descriptors’ in the document. They object to the river being described as “dirty, lacking life and culturally compromised.”
Are they for real? This is the river that was found to rate the worst of 300 international rivers in Cawthron Institute research released last year. It ranks in the bottom 10 of 77 monitored sites in the National River Water Quality league tables for all three measures: biological health, clarity and nutrient levels.
It really isn’t that surprising. As Russel pointed out after his kayaking trip on the river in March, this is a river facing multiple pressures; it is a long river with denuded headwaters, it is shallow and often has low flows, there are numerous point source discharges from councils and industry, and it’s a heavily farmed catchment resulting in nutrient and effluent run-off.
The problems are by no means down to farmers alone. But for the Feds to refuse to sign up to action on the Manawatu because the document describes the river as “dirty” really signals a new low in their head in the sand approach to water quality.
Media reports indicate they may sign the document today. Let’s hope they’ve set the pettiness aside and seen the light – better late than never.