by Eugenie Sage
Six months ago Lance Talstra had never been tramping. Now he has walked more than 2,200 kms on the Te Araroa Trail to raise public awareness of the state of our waterways and water quality. He has walked most of the length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga. He’s on his second pair of boots and has another 800 kms to walk before he finishes at Bluff.
Lance was in Christchurch last weekend to walk beside the Avon/Otakaro River with the River of Life project and talk with media. I dropped Lance off near Arthur’s Pass to walk the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track through to Lake Coleridge/Whakamatau on his way to Bluff. Before he headed up the track he gave me an open letter to deliver to Environment Minister, Amy Adams. This is what it said:
Dear Minister Adams
Since the beginning of October I have been walking the Te Araroa Trail, from Cape Reinga to Bluff, in order to contribute to the growing awareness of water pollution in New Zealand.
I am now in Hanmer Springs preparing to head through to Arthur’s Pass. I have climbed many mountains, strode some state highways and bush whacked my way through 2000 kms of Aotearoa.
I have talked to lobbyists, advocates, tourists, trampers, fishers, farmers, DoC workers, water quality experts, economists, politicians, pundits and ordinary Kiwis. What I have found, is that almost unanimously, we want clean water.
While some have disagreed that there is a problem, the science now clearly shows that water quality is declining. It is also undeniable that while there are many factors contributing to pollution, increasing intensive dairy farming is by far the largest contributor.
The current government wants to skirt round this issue with completely slack regulation. This is in order to press on with an unwise agenda of massive dairy expansion that an ex-dairy guy I met in St Arnaud referred to as “the tsunami of s*#t”.
The question is, have we reached a stage where we stop reading articles and watching reports about this and actually enact strong regulatory changes with regard to pollution and land use?
Regardless, I’m heading for Bluff.
Lance has challenged himself to walk through some of New Zealand’s spectacular and remote back country in some wild weather to call for clean water. It’s a goal the Green Party shares. Achieving it requires a much stronger national standards than National intends with its proposed changes to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater . It requires an end to the million dollar subsidies to irrigation schemes and limits to the continued expansion of dairying.