Before we fix water quality we need to stop allowing more pollution

Cows and stream 1The Prime Minister bragged about how much money his Government is spending on water clean-ups today, but he failed to admit that the money required for clean-up of our rivers and lakes will increase because of his policies.

Nearly every study on water quality shows that land use intensification leads to water pollution. Yet the Government removed the provision in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater that would have required a resource consent for land use intensification.

This means that a lot more land use intensification is going to happen with no check on its impacts, and our waterways will get worse.

The frustrating thing, is that eventually we will decide that we have  intensified our land too much, that we have too many dairy cows and use too much water and fertiliser and that we need to cut back in order to have the clean rivers that New Zealanders want and deserve.

At that time, people who are converted their land to dairying will want to be bought out. And we won’t have enough money to pay them all out.

Right now, farmers are converting to dairying in areas in which we already have too much pollution. They are converting in areas such as the Mackenzie Basin which aren’t suited to dairying because of its low rainfall, high water quality and the native grasses and shrublands which will be destroyed  to farm cows.

1000 cow dairy farms are being established in drought prone areas with light stony soils where large amounts of artificial fertiliser and water from our rivers have to applied to just grow grass.  Right now people are allowed to choose a livelihood that later we will later say is unsustainable.

It is not all the farmers’  fault. It is  the Government’s for not recognising that there are limits to how much pollution our soil and waterways can absorb. It is banks for being blinkered to the environmental and financial risks of such capital intensive farming  and unsustainable debt levels it creates.  New dairy farmers with massive debt seek to maximise milk production to service their debt, often at the environment’s expense.

The Government is on the one hand paying for pollution clean-up, while on the other hand making the water pollution problem worse.

It’s not okay.

4 Comments Posted

  1. The key-party putting the environment before their commitment to: money 1st, money 2nd, money 3rd… “pigs might fly before then !”


  2. I’d like to see the Greenz campaign for the creation of a ‘Minister of Energy’
    Water quality is close to kiwi’s hearts. Surely a vital force of this importance deserves a place around the cabinet table.

  3. I spent 28 years in the water industry in the UK and 12 years of that was dealing with consent issues (what we could discharge to rivers and watercourses – mainly about sewage and storm overflows)with the National Rivers Authority and, after 1991, the Environment Agency (a very different thing to the so-called Environment Agency in NZ!). I was handling about 1OO applications for capital works a year( the equivalent of several hundred million NZ$ in capital costs each year) which would not be possible here.

    It was practicable because we (EA, Government and the Water and Sewerage Companies)were all working to agreed national water quality standards (biological and chemical) for rivers and watercourses.

    This gave the companies business certainty so they could plan capital and operational expenditure and knew where they stood and meant that a discharger couldn’t pick and choose to get the cheaper deal – the same standards applied nationwide.

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