Metiria Turei’s keynote speech to the 2016 Green AGM/conference in which she announces a clean river policy (Greens have campaigned on cleaning up rivers for years but there must be something new in this).
“I am the River, and the River is me”
Speech to Green Party AGM, 5 June 2016
Tenei au e tu whakaiti nei, i raro i a Ranginui i runga i a Papatuanuku, e titiro ki nga maunga whakahi me nga tini uri of Tane
Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, e te ti, e te ta, tena koutou katoa.
Ki ngā iwi me ngā hapū katoa o te rohe, mihi atu ki a koutou e pupuri tonu ana ki te mana o te whenua nei.
A ka huri au ki te hunga Kākāriki – anei tātou kei mua I nga kaupapa o te ra nei, anei taku mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa.
E rere kau mai te Awa nui
Mai i te Kāhui Maunga ki Tangaroa
Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au
The Great River flows
From the Mountains to the Sea
I am the River, and the River is me
This whakataukī speaks of the awa, the river, as an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea, its tributaries and all its physical and spiritual elements. It speaks of the indivisible connection that we have as people, all people, to the life that comes from water.
Ko Tararua te maunga, Ko Ruamahunga te awa, Ko Metiria Turei ahau.
One of my rivers, my awa, is the Ruamahanga which flows from the beautiful Tararua Ranges, down through the Wairarapa lowlands. It winds lazily down to Lake Onoke before it meets Raukawa Moana and then Te Moana nui a Kiwa.
And I say it is worth saving.
The Green Party says it is worth saving.
My awa is a stunningly beautiful river. In the old days the abundant tuna, longfin eels, were a taonga for my tupuna and they still are. The Ruamahanga was the lifeblood of the rohe, its beating heart.
But now its lifeblood is diminished – and that’s why we need to Change the Government.
When my dad and his brothers and sisters were growing up, the river was their playground. They learned to catch tuna off its banks.
But in recent years, our river has been treated badly. She leaves the ranges pristine, but then she meets Masterton, where for decades, sewage was dumped into the river.
She passes by farms where farmers have taken water from her to grow their crops and filled her with nitrogen run-off. She has been tampered with so she no longer flows into Lake Wairarapa.
Sediment washes into her, which clogs her up like someone with a bad cold. By the time she reaches Lake Onoke, the pristine water from the ranges is unrecognisable, as is the river itself.
This is the same story that’s repeated throughout the country. Rivers so poisoned by pollution they’re not safe enough for kids’ to swim in, let alone drink from.
National likes to say this is just the way it is.
And they’re right, this is the way it is when you choose to defend polluters, rather than to protect our rivers.
This is the way it is if you ignore the risk to our environment, to our society, and yes, to our economy.
But our rivers don’t need to continue their decline.
That’s why we need to Change the Government.
Because the alternative, is that if we clean up our rivers, we bring them back to life again. And the good news is we can. Aotearoa has the resources, and we have the know-how to clean up our rivers and protect the wild places that we love.
We just need a Government prepared to make it happen.
So next year, when are in Government – with the Labour Party – the Green Party will set out to save New Zealand’s rivers. I’m pledging today that we will make our rivers clean enough to swim in again.
We’ll save our rivers because it is the right thing to do.
We’ll save our rivers because we believe it’s time for New Zealand to be the cleaner and fairer place that all Kiwis want. Our rivers, like our kids, can’t afford to wait any longer.
We will show what’s possible and in so doing we’ll annihilate one of the lies of this National Government: the lie that our rivers are beyond hope, and that the best we can get is water clean enough to wade through.
We know it will take a strong Government committed to protecting our environment and working alongside every community to save our rivers. And the Greens are ready to do just that.
So we have identified 10 precious and loved rivers to highlight how bad government has injured them and how good government can help fix them.
• The Wairua
• The Kaipātiki/Lucas Creek
• The Waikato
• The Tarawera
• The Waitara
• The Tukituki
• The Ruamāhanga
• The Manawatū
• The Waikirikiri/Selwyn
• The Mataura
From the Mataura in the South, to the Wairua in the North, we will be touring each of these rivers, looking at all the things that threaten them – from over-intensified dairy farms to sewerage to industrial pollution.
And we will look at all the solutions people in our communities are coming up with, the solutions that will clean them up and protect our rivers from pollution.
We will work with iwi and communities who are already champions for these rivers and help build even more support through a Swimmable not Wadeable rivers petition.
We will inspire and be inspired by the amazing work of thousands of New Zealanders who every day are protecting the birthright of our kids by protecting our rivers and our environment.
I want all of us in this room, and all of our members and supporters, to get in behind this campaign.
I want you to talk to as many people as possible about it.
To ask them if they think our rivers should be swimmable.
And to ask them to sign the petition to make that goal a reality.
Lots of us are out campaigning at the moment for the Local Body Elections. That campaign is a great opportunity for the Greens to be talking about the importance of rivers. And the rivers campaign is a great opportunity to build our Local Body campaign.
Because I know that New Zealanders everywhere care deeply about water. It’s a great way to connect with people about Green values.
Because I know that the Green Party is leading the way on solutions and others are taking notice.
National is taking notice – and believe me it knows its weak response to pollution and to giving our water away for free is hurting it.
When people are standing up and saying no, National notices.
When more and more farmers are getting behind environmental initiatives, National notices.
When even Dairy NZ is beginning to say that less intensive farms, organic farms, with added value are more profitable than a high volume, high impact approach – National notices.
National is getting its wake up call on this issue. But National will continue to do as little as they can, for as long as they can.
That’s why we need to Change the Government.
In Government the Green Party will do all we can to limit the amount of pollution going into rivers so that they are safe for our kids to swim in.
The Green Party will put a moratorium on new dairy conversions, support land based sewage solutions, put filters on stormwater drains, and plant and fence land around waterways.
We will put a price on the commercial use of water and use that for water restoration projects by hapu and communities. The Ashburton people have our full support.
Our National Environmental Standard (NES) for water quality will require councils to ensure that our rivers are clean enough for swimming.
This will support the National Policy Statement on water and help bring it into effect. We would make sure it set maximum levels for nitrate, phosphorus, zinc, cadmium and other pollutants allowed in our rivers.
And we support Maori as kaitiaki of water.
This is just the start. There is so much more.
Already, people like you, all around the country are working to clean up their rivers. You’ve already started showing the National Government what can be done, and you’ve already started making New Zealand the cleaner and fairer place that all Kiwis want. You’re doing what’s right, what’s needed, to protect the precious places that we love.
And for that hard work I think the Government should have your back.
That’s why we need to Change the Government.
Because the National Government honestly doesn’t care if you and I go without the things we treasure, like clean air and water, if its friends can get further ahead.
John Key thinks our rivers are in pretty good shape. That tells me that the so called brighter future that National promised is really only for its chosen few, and it’s costing the rest of us our way of life.
In last week’s Budget we learned that you and I are subsidising industries that are belching out climate damaging carbon, to the tune of $2 billion.
We’re effectively paying those industries to pollute. Meanwhile, we’re having to subsidise them by putting more and more public money into cleaning up the rivers they’re polluting.
The $100 million promised in the Budget by the Government is only $10 million a year, and the money doesn’t kick in for years. That isn’t enough to clean up our waterways, and doesn’t address the causes of pollution like intensive dairying.
The supposed Freshwater Improvement Fund of just $10 million a year is a drop in the bucket of what is needed to make our rivers safe for swimming.
And on top of that the Fund can be used for irrigation!
That’s right, like a cow pooing in the creek, the fund is already so fouled it can be used to further pollute the waterways.
This is typical National Party, talk big, do bugger all.
Thankfully for my awa, the Ruamahunga, there are lots of people who are working hard to restore her health – my hapu, Ngati Moe, are planting native shrubs at the edge of the river to soak up nitrogen run off and are working to restore fat and healthy tuna and other native fish and Wairarapa farmers committed to protecting the river from nutrients. There are changes being made to the sewerage system, working groups listening to the community about what they want for the river, and volunteers getting kids interested in replenishing her with tuna too.
Yes, you can still swim in the upper reaches of the Ruamahanga, and many do. It’s glorious up there, before it hits the towns. And yes, there are still some tuna, but they need help getting down to the sea on their once-in-a-lifetime journey to breed.
And yes, I agree, water is necessary to grow crops and keep livestock healthy.
But what the National Government doesn’t appreciate is that water – like the rest of nature – is never free.
When National gives water away and allows businesses to pump their pollution into our air and waterways for free, the rest of us bear the cost.
We always bear the cost.
You and I know, that if we really want clean rivers, if we want a fair country that’s as good as it can be, we need to change the Government.
By backing those who’re already well ahead, National is denying young families the chance to buy a warm, safe home for their kids to grow up in, it’s robbing us of the rivers we love to swim in, and it’s costing New Zealand the opportunity to make the transition to a cleaner, more prosperous future.
The Green Party understands that in order to have the best country possible, we need to take care of ourselves, of each other and the rivers and wild places that we love.
We think it’s time for New Zealand to be the cleaner and fairer place that all Kiwis want. But for it to happen we need a Government prepared to do all it can rather than as little as it can get away with.
To do what’s right, not just what’s easy.
Aotearoa New Zealand can have clean rivers, we can have warm houses and we can have meaningful jobs that pay enough for families to thrive, if we make good changes now.
Our ten rivers campaign shows what’s possible, with a Government prepared to do all that it can.
We can make rivers clean enough to swim in again.
So let’s get started and let’s CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT!