Outdoor industrial dairy factories in the Maketu swamp

On May 27th I visited the Lower Kaituna River and the Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary, just to the east of Tauranga. I met up with Ray Bushell and Maria Horne from Te Arawa, and Julian Fitter, a local conservationist.

They are trying to save the Maketu Estuary and the Kaituna River, which are highly degraded ecosystems.

The Kaituna River flowed through the Maketu Estuary until the 1950s and it was a thriving food basket. Then a canal was cut so that  the Kaituna was diverted to the sea before it got to the Estuary, and only a trickle now goes through the Estuary. This was in order to lower water levels upstream and stop the flooding of a few farms near the Estuary during high flow events.

The result is that the Estuary is now in very poor shape with the collapse of the kaimoana/ kai awa, ecology, water quality and flows. The local community has lost a valuable community asset. This went alongside the draining of the wetlands so that out of the original 6100 ha of freshwater wetlands, there is only 92ha wetlands remaining – yep that’s right, we’re down to the last 1.5%.

A plan has been drawn up to restore at least some proportion of the flow from the river through the estuary, but as of yet there has been no action.

The problem is made worse by the terrible quality of water coming down the Kaituna River – something I blogged about previously. Nitrate levels have been increasing at about 2% per year since 1990. About a third of the nitrogen in the river comes from Lake Rotorua via the Ohau Channel but the rest comes from the lower catchment of the river – mostly intensive agriculture but also sewerage and meat works.

And if you want to know why there is so much pollution coming in have a look at this:

This is dairy farming, in what used to be wetlands, just near the estuary and the river.

As you can see dairy cows are being farmed in the mud right next to the drainage ditches. There are no fences and clearly the cows have been right in the water. You can spot some of the dairy beasts in this shot:

Here you can see the large algal blooms caused by the huge nutrient loads:

And if you follow this series of drains, this is where they end up draining into the Kaituna River:

But not to worry, as the sign next to this drain says, the water is perfectly safe to swim in:

Good to know the district council is on the job – I’ll get my bathers!

Of course all of these activities are entirely unconsented – because they don’t need a consent, they are permitted activities under the RMA. Fed Farmers and Dairy NZ are fighting tooth and nail to ensure that these practices continue to be unregulated. The National Party’s Blue Green Minister for the Environment helpfully watered down the draft National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management so that these activities continue to not need a consent to do this kind of environmental vandalism – in fact it is approved environmental vandalism.

So when you hear about all those serious non-compliance issues, it is just the dairy shed effluent that is the issue – ie just the faeces, urine and wash-water coming out of the dairy shed at milking time. And dairy shed effluent only makes up 10% of the nutrient load going through one of these outdoor industrial dairy factories (aka farms).

But I hear you say, at least there are good rules around dairy shed effluent. Think again. Here is a dairy shed effluent pit that is about 20m from the Kaituna River.

It is full of effluent and is simply a hole dug into the ground, there was no waterproof liner. The pollution laden water is draining through the groundwater directly into the river. So far as we are aware, this is a complying dairy shed effluent system.

Finally, I had enough and headed off to give a talk to Whakatane Greypower, and here’s one of the sights by the side of the highway:

This is the kind of freedom that Fed Farmers and Dairy NZ are fighting to protect – the freedom for every dairy corporation in the country to shit in our rivers.

20 Comments Posted

  1. yeah..ok..

    care to defend yr animal-eating ways…?

    ..enlighten us to how eating animal flesh/fat is ‘green’…


    (leans forward expectantly…)


  2. “..it’s risky to judge people hypocritically for acting as they do in a world imposed on them. People do exactly this to Green Party supporters all the time,..”

    you mean those ‘greens’ who support the torture/ongoing-abuse/killing of animals..so they..these ‘greens’..can eat their charred flesh and fat..?

    …and wear their skins on their bodies..?

    ..those ‘greens..?

    (..i’ll ‘judge’ all over them..eh..?..

    ..they deserve nothing less…

    ..’cos that world is not ‘imposed upon them’..

    ..they choose to engage in this barbaric behaviour..

    ..and they could end it/stop at any time..

    ..notice how none of them can defend their cruelties to animals..?)


  3. Yes it pops up in a few places in a Google search. I’ve never bothered to learn lots about Ayn Rand, but my completely uninformed general view is that it’s risky to judge people hypocritically for acting as they do in a world imposed on them. People do exactly this to Green Party supporters all the time, so it should be familiar.

    In certain situations I’d much rather the government pushed public transport options instead of roads, but I’ll still use a car and drive on the roads if I need to be somewhere and there’s no other method. Rand could possibly have argued that if systems were run fundamentally differently, more in-demand (and maybe less regulated) private medical care might have been dirt cheap. I’m just making this stuff up without knowing about Rand, but I think the principle applies generally when judging people unless there’s obvious reason that it doesn’t.

  4. MikeM: LOL. Fair enough.

    Phil: BTW. Someone has told me that Ayn Rand was a heavy smoker and required surgery towards the end of her life. Being a writer, she was not wealthy, and so had to turn to big-bad-government-run Medicare for the operation. I haven’t been able to confirm this using the usual sources on wikipedia… but it would be a dirty irony if it is true. And I’d fully encourage you to use the story against any self-righteous libertarian you come across.

    Just let us all know if you can confirm the story.

  5. Phil. Read Marx, or as much of the Communist Manifesto as I could swallow, haven’t read Ayn Rand, and don’t intend to anytime soon. Who do you presume to be my leader?!

    Please, have another go at putting my opinions into an ideological box. I haven’t put much thought into it myself – If you can’t tell from my postings, I’m less interested in getting all self-righteous about a specific ideology than I am in getting things done.

    MikeM. I believe it’s “I voted for Kodos”. Past tense.

  6. and bloody-hands-bob has minor noteriety for going on the record..(at kiwiblog)..

    ..for gloating about being one of those ‘farmers’ wallowing in money…

    ..who has ‘arranged’ their income/wealth into trusts…

    ..so as to qualify for welfare…

    ..in his case…working for families…

    (it does pay to have these people in their context..)

    ..and don’t get him started on the anti-belting kids legislation..eh..?

    ..he turns purple and shouts bradford-laced expletives…


  7. ryan..!..are you a fan of ayn rand..?

    (like your leader..?..

    ..and you wouldn’t have read marx..eh..?

    once again..like yr leader..eh..?..)


  8. SPC says: “Saying that that one condition for confidence and supply would be a nationwide waterway standard is still a place to start.”

    Exactly! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?! My points are: (a) this will never happen, because it means the greens will have to supply votes on right-of-center economic policies.(b) Given (a) an environmentalist should support a party that will act on other environmental issues … say by putting pink batts in homes or setting aside NZ territory as a national park.

    Clearly (b) is a 2nd-best outcome. But it is 1st-best amoungst likely outcomes of the election.

    I agree with Side Show Bob. It is time Russel spent the Greens political capital on addressing enviromental issues rather than kowtowing to the socialists in the party.

    Since the introduction of MMP the major political parties have needed a coailition partner. If the Greens were serious about transitioning NZ to a sustainable standard of living, that coalition partner should have been the Green Party at each an every election. Supply votes to Labour for left-of-center policies, supply National with right-of-center policies, all in exchange for Green policies.

  9. No SPC I do not. Before we come to blows please believe I’m on side as far as the Greens stand on water pollution goes. The photos above are a disgrace and as a dairy farmer I’m sad that fallow farmers could not have done more to fix the situation. The land has been humped and hollowed but obviously this has subsided as it’s on deep peat land. Plus the river banks are unfenced and do not have a riparian belt. In our district my arse would be in a sling if my farm looked like that presented in the photos. Presently I have both the regional council and Fonterra making inspections to make sure there can be no animal access to waterways and that all water courses are planted out and i pay for the privilege, who needs another damn parasite with their hand out. The farm resembles more park then dairy farm but of course no two farms are the same. National water standards will not work for the simple reason you are dealing with local and regional authorities and they jealously guard their own kingdoms. Plus why do you beat up on the farmers. I would happily drink out of any creek or river on my farm, don’t think I would chance my luck near any of you precious cities.

  10. PS Given that a few righties are full of ideas for telling beneficiary parents how to raise their children is that really far left wing idea?

    I suspect that those who say they might vote Green if it changed really want it to end its support for redistribution policies and spending programmes

  11. side show bob as a farmer do you support national waterway standards and are you happy that Fed Farmers do not?

  12. I would be more inclined to favor green policies if the Greens were true environmentalists. Unfortunately it is clear the environment is simply used as a cover to promote social legislation and ideals that have sweat stuff all with anything being green. Hay I’m a farmer, hunter , fisherman, I don’t want to destroy the environment in fact I would say personally I have enhanced it. I don’t need someone telling me how to raise my kids or telling me the bloody light bulb is to bright and must be replaced with some toxic time bomb. Be Green by all means but stop with the far left bullshit that goes with it.

  13. So let’s guess, Ryan will vote for a party that does not mind the pollution continuing.

    So what is his point, just saying that Greens cannot help the environment without ditching it’s left wing supporters and making deals with National (that may mean not getting 5% of the vote and having no position to do anything).

    Is there any reason to believe that National would make such a deal? Or Labour, they did nothing in the past.

    But is there any evidence that becoming an environment only party will work – are people who are anti-dairy farm pollution of waterways also supportive of carbon taxes or water charges and Kyoto Accord global warming activism rather than mining more carbon etc … and even if they were would they cast their votes for Greens rather than vote on economic and social policy preferences …

    Saying that that one condition for confidence and supply would be a nationwide waterway standard is still a place to start

  14. Russel,

    You could easily put this issue on the negotiating table if National needs a coalition partner to govern after the election. (Let’s face it, National is going to get more votes than Labour.)

    I’d vote for the Greens if I thought that by doing so it would help to address pollution from farming. However, I know you will never go into coalition with National (given the Red half of the Green Party coalition), so such a vote would be wasted.

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