Water pollution a major public concern – Fish & Game poll

According to a poll done for NZ Fish & Game by Colmar Brunton, water quality is a major concern.

Fish & Game:  Water pollution is now New Zealanders’ Number One Concern

The findings are revealed in a nation-wide Colmar Brunton poll conducted for Fish & Game New Zealand in December.

People were asked how concerned they were about a range of issues, including the cost of living, health system, child poverty and water pollution.

I don’t think the poll proves water pollution is the ‘number one concern’. The poll just asked about seven issues and didn’t leave it open for people to nominate issues of concern.

Question: To what extent are you concerned , or not concerned, about the following issues in New Zealand:

The poll was conducted for Fish & Game New Zealand by Colmar Brunton from 5-12 December 2018.  A thousand New Zealanders were surveyed and the results are nationally representative for age, gender and region.  It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Water pollution rates as a major concern (of the issues offered), but is within the margin of error of the cost of living and the health system.

And as presented in the poll options it is more specific than all the other issues.

If asked what concerns you most between equal and access to life saving medical care, or for decent housing or fo\r low mortgage rates compared to cleaner lakes and rivers the results could have been different.

Interesting to see housing rated the bottom of these concerns.

Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor…

…says the survey’s findings show the depth of feeling New Zealanders have about their rivers, lakes and streams.

“Kiwis are extremely worried that they are losing their ability to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams”.

“People see those activities as their birth right but over the last 20 years, that right is being lost because the level of pollution in waterways has increased as farming intensifies.

Taylor says big agriculture and local government should take note of the fact that the issue is now Kiwi’s top concern.

“While many farmers do understand the need for action and are making the necessary changes to how they use their land, there are still significant numbers who are refusing to follow their example,” he says.

“These laggards are letting down the responsible farmers, undermining farming’s reputation and exhausting the public’s patience.

“They have to be made to change.  This means regional and district councils have to toughen the rules, enforce them and stop making excuses for the environmentally destructive and irresponsible farmers in their areas,” Mr Taylor says.

“More Kiwis than ever are now worried about their rivers and lakes.

“This opinion poll result shows they are fed up and want action on this issue.”

The poll doesn’t actually show that.

Fis & Game will be pleased that the poll they commissioned gave them a result that suited their own purposes, but presenting a poll alongside their own agenda, with misleading claims, is not a great way to do things.

I think that maintaining and improving fresh water quality is important, but so are many other problems.

An Ashburton farmer on vitriol and inconsistency in the water debate

David Clark, an Ashburton farmer, on hatred, vitriol, water tax, and farming’s contribution to the rural based economy:


It really saddens me to hear and read to the hatred and vitriol that been brought into this election campaign and I am very concerned at the rift between urban and rural and the disconnection between food production and our population.

We live in a nation of low unemployment, a world standard low cost health system, a no-fault accident compensation scheme, social welfare and pension provisions. We have an extraordinary high degree of food security in this country.

I live in a district whose main town has virtually the lowest unemployment in New Zealand. We have a vibrant, multi-cultural community that offers a wide range of employment opportunities and a very high level of community facilities. This is much transformed town that come out of the ‘80’s with its tail firmly between its legs.

Ashburton is a town that has been transformed in the last 25 years; this is a town that has been transformed by the development of irrigation, both in arable and dairying land uses. This district grows over half of the world’s carrot and radish seeds along with a wide variety of other crops exported worldwide. We produce 8% of the National Dairy production.

I am an arable farmer using irrigation to grow seed crops that are exported worldwide and grain and vegetable crops for domestic food consumption as well as finishing lambs for NZ butchers and export.

We first put irrigation on in ’98 and then in 2011 installed pivots to achieve more efficient water use and lower leaching than the older irrigators we had originally operated, at a cost of well over $1 million. We did that voluntarily because it increased our production, reduced our water use and significantly reduced our environmental footprint, however we could only justify that expenditure because our business was bankable.

Our business proudly supports local firms for the provision of goods and services and like our fellow farmers, most of the gross income is spent in the local community and profit, if any is largely reinvested in our business via local firms.

We operate our tractors on GPS guidance, running at 20mm accuracy to reduce overlap, our fertiliser spreader is GPS controlled and records all applications to a geo-spacial map, our combine weighs every kg of crop and overlays that data onto a map so we can track inputs and outputs accurately here as a result of investment in technology. It is investment in this technology that is achieving improvements in our environmental footprint.

On Friday night I attended a public meeting to hear Labour Water Spokesperson David Parker present his proposal for a tax on irrigation water. His presentation was headed by “How did we get to this?” and showed a series of photos from around New Zealand of environmental degradation caused by agriculture. The photos showed practices that are unacceptable for sure, no argument about that, but a selective portrayal of the worst of the worst in my view.

At not one point did I hear any positive comment of the actions of the farming community in NZ. But interestingly none of the photos depicted anything in Mid Canterbury, had nothing to do with arable agriculture and only one shot of Coe’s Ford after three years of drought had any connection to irrigation. There was only one photo of a degraded urban waterway and that was one that Federated Farmers had provided to Mr Parker earlier in the day and challenged him to display.

The purpose of the meeting and continuation of his presentation was to explain the Labour Party’s intention to impose a tax on irrigation in NZ with the intent of using the money raised to repair environmental damage.

The missing part of this logic was that his slide show did not depict irrigation as the cause of the degradation and this is confirmed by a report by Irrigation NZ that shows there is no correlation between areas of high irrigation development and regions with poor water quality in NZ.

So why tax irrigation? And Irrigation predominately in Canterbury and Otago that are regions with good water quality?

I listened to the proposal and wondered why, if using a public resource for private profit was so villainous, why would a food producer using irrigation be taxed, but a soft drink company abstracting water from the Auckland Municipal supply be exempt? I heard the argument popular in Ashburton about export water bottlers, but if the bottling company pumped from their own well, they would be captured by this tax, however if the plant connected onto the local Council reticulated supply, their export activity would be water-tax free.

I sat in the meeting heard a whole lot of vitriol and bitterness extended towards the agricultural community and I reflected on the fact that it was August 18th and that night our monthly bills would be paid and a not insignificant sum would be transferred to local businesses, local businesses that the attendees relied on for either direct or indirect employment or for taxation to fund their social payments. The receipts from our production re-cycle many times through our local community, and I’m pleased about that.

I reflected on the reality that in the last ten years a qualified tradesman in Ashburton could pretty much name their charge out rate or hourly wage on the back of rapid development, both urban and rural, largely, virtually entirely, whether direct or indirect, on the back of the productivity achieved irrigation in the Ashburton District.

This is a town where professionals view their income earning potential as better than in large cities, a town that offers an unemployment rate equal to the lowest in the country. A town with a man-made lake providing a housing location and leisure facility for all; a lake that is packed on any summer’s afternoon.

We have a town with a new art gallery; and a new aquatic centre costing $35m. A fantastic complex on which the paint was hardly dry and some around the town were grizzling that it needed the addition of a Hydro Slide for the children.

I listened to the anti-farming vitriol, and heard how they believed that we were stealing water and the town folk saw no benefit. Every dollar we earn is re-cycled into our local community, the employment generated by our business, direct or indirectly is significantly higher than it was in 1994 when we moved to a dryland sheep farm running 2,000 ewes.

A theme, which seems to be propagated at present by the Left is that Water Quality is a Rural problem, and therefore of Agricultural origin.

I accept that farming has an environmental footprint; no doubt, I also accept that practices need to and will change. In my view, technology and regulation will go hand in hand to solve those problems. Interestingly the three key policies that David Parker said he would implement are already in place by way of the Canterbury Land and Water Plan and he congratulated the National Government appointed Commissioners at ECan on introducing a robust water management framework.

But I don’t think that is the end of the debate. We regularly swim with our children in the river that bounds our farm; in fact I would happily drink it. I, along with thousands of others enjoy recreation in Lake Hood which is fed by the Ashburton River.
But the media and the Left would portray our rivers as dangerously polluted and degraded.

In comparison, I cannot swim in the Avon or Heathcote, nor the Christchurch Estuary which are subjected to storm water flows, overflows from the sewer network, seepage from broken sewers and heavy metals and petroleum contamination, which at times are several hundred times safe levels. Sure Christchurch has been devastated by the earthquakes, but the pollution of these urban waterways long pre-date the earthquake.

I would look forward to the day we can safely swim in the Avon adjacent to Oxford Terrace.

We hear much of the risks of the Ruataniwha Dam, but overlook the reality that the Hawke’s Bay’s two cities pump their sewerage out in the bay. Invercargill City is currently arguing in the Courts to renew its consent to discharge sewerage into four waterways including a lagoon.

In the Hutt Valley the sewerage system has contaminated an aquifer and will likely require the long term chlorination of the local water supply.

I grew up in South Auckland and enjoyed swimming at their most magnificent beaches during summer. The situation now is that one million cubic metres of sewerage and wastewater pours into the harbour every year regularly requiring the beaches to be closed to swimmers.

Two summers ago we stopped for lunch at a public picnic table looking out to Lion Rock at Piha. As our children walked across the mown grass their shoes turned green from the septic tank leachate oozing from the ground. Their shoes and the whole area stank; it sure didn’t do much for our appetite.

Yet the Left are silent on urban water quality issues, best not scare the voters with any suggestion they may need to fund the upgrade of their own effluent disposal system. It is far more politically expedient to poke the borax at farmers. We all have a footprint on this planet, and poor water quality has many causes and we are all responsible for the many solutions. Taxing only one group is not that solution.

Across New Zealand we are covering much of our elite food producing soils with the ongoing march of urban sprawl, permanently removing this land from production. Surely mankind cannot have more of a footprint that covering food producing soil with concrete.

In our world, we are challenged to produce food at the lowest price in the world. We do so by employing world leading technology to be some of the most efficient producers on the planet. Why would I say the cheapest in the world? Well, if we are not, the manufacturers and supermarkets will turn and import the ingredients quickity-split.

You see, as much as we talk about providence of supply and country of origin, animal welfare and environmental footprint, the brutal reality it that the vast bulk of consumers purchase the grocery item that the supermarket has a “special” tag attached to and couldn’t give two-toots as to where it came from or what standards it conformed to.

Our family has proudly farmed continuously in various parts of NZ for 140 years; I am but a caretaker and would hope that at least one of my children might take our family forward as food producers. It is in our very best interests to ensure that this property is in better condition for the next generation than when I began my stewardship.

I have listened to the hatred, I have read the posts on social media riping into farmers and it saddens me. This is a very nasty election campaign and I hope it is not a reflection on society as a whole.

It is a wet Sunday afternoon and I have stock to check on, best get my wet weather gear back on and get cracking.

David Clark.

As posted on Facebook

Who’s to blame for river health?

Dairy is the main scapecow when it comes to water pollution blame, but that industry takes it’s clean clean green obligations more seriously than most city dwellers.

Newshub has published a series of reports on water quality in New Zealand. One of the biggest culprits would appear to be the dairy industry – but that could be an unfair emphasis when there are a number of other causes of our water pollution, people and cities being major ones.

Newshub: Special report: The blame game over NZ river health

As Newshub reported in parts one and two of our special investigation into New Zealand’s river health, the dairy industry has acknowledged the role it plays in pollution, and its farmers have spent a billion dollars trying to protect waterways from further contamination.

There are other factors to consider when it comes to river pollution.

  • The beef, lamb and venison industries are not regulated to protect waterways.
  • Other land and river-based industries such as milling are key polluters.
  • Invasive species of fish and plants are still a major problem.
  • Climate change is having a major detrimental effect as our waterways heat up.

While it would be easy for Newshub to square up the protagonists in a ‘we said, they said’ debate, the true facts of the matter are that all New Zealanders are responsible for the health of our waterways, even the great majority of us who live in urban areas.

We all live here, we all eat the food that is grown here, and we all go to the toilet here – it’s that simple.

Even political critics of polluters are a part of the problem.

We are all responsible for water pollution

Freshwater ecologist Dr Kevin Simon from Auckland University told Newshub all Kiwis have a part to play.

“We spend lots of time of assigning blame and not enough time solving problems, so we need to focus more on how can we do these things better?

“I think all of New Zealand needs to step back and take ownership of this, it’s not just farmers, it’s not just the dairy industry, it’s all of us that own this problem, and we’re all going to need to step up together to try and figure out ways to do things better to fix these systems.

“It’s going to take all of us to make some hard choices to do that.”

Some of those hard choices will need to be made by people who live in New Zealand’s cities.

An easy choice is to blame someone else. Most cow pollution is at least natural, albeit concentrated.

City dwellers are major polluters

Just think of the almost 1.5 million people crammed into the relatively small area of the Auckland isthmus and the pollution that causes.

NIWA’s chief scientist of freshwater and estuaries Dr John Quinn told Newshub city living has a massive impact on water quality, and we should all be more aware of it.

“It is very much a ‘we’re all in this together’ issue, but in one sector, the urban-rural split in this is not actually very helpful for people blaming each other.

Who is actually making an effort to reduce pollution?

Is the dairy industry receiving the credit it deserves?

Dr Quinn also believes the dairy industry has made great strides in recognising and rectifying the pollution it causes, even in the face of increasing intensification.

“I think the dairy farming community needs to receive some credit for the effort that it’s put in over the last 15 years, and if we look at the results from those dairy practice catchments we looked at, we have seen improvements in water clarity amongst all of those, [and] reductions in E. coli in a number of them.

“Farmers have done a good job of getting livestock out of streams and improving effluent and nutrient management,” he says.

But they are still the main scapegoat, or scapecow.

Dr Simon says Kiwis should appreciate what farmers are trying to achieve by reducing pollution in waterways, which has gone largely unchecked since farming began in the 1800s.

“Part of the issue is that the farmers have to bear the brunt but we’ve got to help them. We’ve got to help provide them with solutions that are economically feasible and will work. Farmers don’t want to pollute, they want to make a living just like the rest of us.”

Some people make a living flying around the country complaining about others who pollute.

The real questions though, are these: Is the change, both in attitude and application, happening fast enough – and is it happening with the right amount of intensity?

We may only find out the answers to these questions in 10 to 20 years.

– Newshub.

What if fossil fuel disappeared tomorrow?

Some of the more extreme climate and fossil fuel activists want all fossil fuel extraction to crease almost immediately – see Protest blockade and backlash.

What would happen to the world if they got their wish? A prediction for the USA:

What If Atlas Shrugged?

by David Deming

Atlas Shrugged is the title of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel in which the world grinds to a halt after the productive segment of society goes on strike. Tired of being demonized and exploited, the world’s innovators and entrepreneurs simply walk away.

What would happen to the US today if the fossil fuel industry went on a strike of indefinite duration? What would happen if we gave the environmentalists what they want?

Within 24 hours there would be long lines at service stations as people sought to purchase remaining stocks of gasoline. The same people who denounce oil companies would be desperately scrounging the last drops of available fuel for their SUVs. By the third day, all the gasoline would be gone.

With no diesel fuel, the trucking industry would grind to a halt. Almost all retail goods in the US are delivered by trucks. Grocery shelves would begin to empty. Food production at the most basic levels would also stop.

With no trains or trucks running there would be no way to deliver either raw materials or finished products. All industrial production and manufacturing would stop. Mass layoffs would ensue. At this point, it would hardly matter. With virtually all transportation systems out, the only people who could work would be those who owned horses or were capable of walking to their places of employment.

Owners of electric cars might smirk at first, but would soon be forced to the unpleasant reality that the vehicle they thought was “emission free” runs on coal. Forty-two percent of electric power in the US is produced by burning coal.

With natural gas also out of the picture, we would lose another 25 percent. The environmentalist’s favorite power sources, wind and solar, could not fill the gap. Wind power currently generates about 3 percent of our electricity and solar power accounts for a scant 0.04 percent. The only reliable power sources left would be hydroelectric and nuclear. But together these two sources could only power the grid at 27 percent of its normal capacity. With two-thirds of the electric power gone, the grid would shut down entirely.

And Anthony Watts adds:

  • After elevated tanks of municipal water systems were depleted of drinking water in a few days, there would be no more water supply. This would force people to start looking for alternate sources, and we’d be back to a time when water treatment was unknown. Disease and death would follow for many as tainted water spreads disease. People with water wells would have to tear out electric pumps and install hand pumps or windmills to get water.
  • Related to the first point, toilets would be useless without water to flush them. Fecal matter disposal becomes an issue as gravity fed sewage systems eventually clog, and eventually fecal matter will end up in streams and rivers contributing to the spread of diseases much like the Great Stink in old London.
  • Garbage collection becomes a thing of the past. Garbage will be piled high in the streets.
  • People that have grid tied solar power systems would be no better off than their neighbors, because the DC to AC inverters require an AC power grid presence signal. Otherwise they shut off for safety. Some people with electrical skills might be able to rewire them, but then they’d only have electricity during daytime.
  • People who may have working solar energy might be targeted by the have-nots. They might wish they had paid attention to the Second Amendment to protect their home based energy source. People who still have gasoline in their cars trying to escape cities might find themselves victims of mob attacks as the have-nots look for the last remaining bits of energy. Mad-Max world ensues.
  • Windmill farms (that also need grid presence to operate) will stand as icons of folly, unusable, and cursed by the populace since they can’t make use of them. Eventually they’ll all look like these wind farms or fall down.
  • Without air conditioning, city dwellers would truly experience the Urban Heat Island effect in the summer, that is when they weren’t scrounging for food and water, and fighting off the Mad-Maxer gangs who would take anything they could from them, including their life.
  • Wood burning to stay warm during the winter becomes all the rage again. Smoke pollution returns to cities, especially in winter.
  • Real climate refugees start streaming south from high latitude countries as people run out of fuel. Many towns in Alaska and Siberia that survive only because of regular supplies of heating oil and gasoline would be abandoned.
  • Global warming, environmentalism, politics;  all would be a thing of the past, since survival trumps everything.

From Life After Energy: What if fossil fuels disappeared tomorrow?

This illustrates a major world problem – fossil fuels have serious downsides like pollution and climate change, but we are extremely reliant on them to function as heavily populated societies.

New Zealand is nowhere near as reliant on fossil fuels as some counties (like the US and Australia) but we are very reliant on fossil fueled transport.

Pulling the plug on fossil fuel use won’t happen because it would be catastrophic.  We have to reduce use and move to alternatives as quickly as possible, but that is probably going to take a long time.

Environmental catastrophe in Indonesia has NZ link

Rupertdebear drew attention in today’s Open Forum to an ongoing environmental disaster in Indonesia.

The catastrophic environmental, financial, social disaster presently taking place in Indonesia is grossly under reported in our media. Why? Radio New Zealand have some reporting on what is taking place with a comment that links the events to New Zealand Farming.

He linked to an RNZ report  Indonesian haze chokes orangutans.

Indonesia’s threatened orangutans are being choked by the haze from the land-clearing fires burning on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and being driven out of their habitat into farmland, where they risk being shot.

They covered more of the poor cute animals in danger story before getting to the crux of the problems.

The smoke in this part of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan has been dense for three months.

Visibility at times is less than 50 metres, and the pollution is so thick that an estimated half a million people are suffering from acute respiratory problems.

The scale of this man-made disaster is immense.

One organisation, the Global Fires Emissions Database, estimates Indonesia has overtaken China and the United States to become the world’s biggest polluter.

It is extraordinary for a nation without major heavy industry and where most people cannot afford to drive cars.

Repeating: The scale of this man-made disaster is immense.

But as Rupetdebear says the media in New Zealand don’t seem to have been particularly interested. Rugby has been far more important it seems.

But there is a New Zealand connection to the massive deforestation as our farmers use KDE, a palm plant by product. The expansion of palm production has driven deforestation in South East Asia.

Maggy Wassilieff explains:

The drivers for increased palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are:
1. very productive plant
2. The demand for trans-free vegetable oils (FDA regulations)
3. The demand for biodiesel.

The palm kernel foodstock is a byproduct of palm-oil production.
It was never the driver for the plantations.
Ill-judged green ideas on biomass fuels and “healthy” foods have played a role in the environmental destruction of Asia’s finest tropical rainforests.

And Rupertdebear adds a long comment but it’s worth repeating in a post:

PKE is a byproduct of these industries which in themselves have dirty secrets large and small. The whole question of Palm Oil is a subject of complex considerations and difficult decisions.

However it is significant that there is compelling evidence that here, in NZ, substantial amounts of PKE are derived from uncertified sources. In other words it is illegal under one or several jurisdiction and certainly immoral and unethical. Leaving this where it falls, I believe that New Zealand farming sector needs to be held to account. In a recent exchange on the Radio New Zealand website I posted this response the recent environmental report on farming.

I am not providing the links here – but you may follow my authorities here:

rnztalk.nz/t/farming-damaging-environment-report/1846/17

Many of us think that the environmental damage caused by New Zealand farming is serious. It gives rise for deep concern on many levels. Issues of cost and efficiency, public health including the imminent threat to our water supply and long term food safety, animal welfare, even how we think of our self as a nation and our international reputation. The list could go on.

Many of us have seen the environmental problems with our own eyes. As someone who retains a close association with the land, I recognize such damage when I see it. Even if I had not had this experience, a casual reading of the media would alert me.

This month the Otago Regional Council’s regulatory committee heard that non-compliance in the 2014-15 financial year was the second highest since the council introduced its effluent discharge enforcement policy in 2007-08. Action over “effluent rule” breaches also peaked in 2014-15, with 18 infringement notices issued and 25 prosecutions undertaken.

Travel south and the situation appears worse. Hundreds of Canterbury dairy farmers have been caught out breaking their resource consent conditions
.
A report by Environment Canterbury (ECan) found more than a third of dairy farms were breaking effluent discharge rules in the last 12 months. In the Orari-Opihi-Parora zone, the third largest in the region, more farms were breaking the rules than following them.

At the beginning of this decade the Crafar Farms became the poster boys for dirty farming. Over a five year period (2007 -2011) multiple pollution and animal welfare offences of the most sickening kind took place – protected, one suspects in large part, by the money involved. At the end it was estimated the Crafar Farms owed $NZ200 million.

Lessons from The Crafar Farms are many but two that are particularly relevant are debt driven compromises and overstocking. The constant chase for the next dollar and unforeseen consequences – perhaps.

One of the many disturbing aspects of this type of crime was the time it took agencies charged with controlling pollution and animal welfare to effectively respond. As reported in 2009 by the New Zealand Herald there are questions (that are still unanswered) about how MAF dealt with the Crafar Farms. These questions include how animals were slaughtered and the speed with which authorities moved to bring under control a management that simply wasn’t managing in the best interests of anyone – man nor beast.

If you think that our authorities are now onto the question of farm related pollution you might want to think again. How does 11 years of polluting sound. To put this into context consider this question, what is the difference between a terrorist and a farmer?

What might be your response to the discovery that a “terrorist” was planning to release toxins into your water supply or poison your food ?

How about someone who releases 300,000 litres of effluent into a river on the Coromandel over a nine hour period ?

Well a Coromandel farmer was found to have done this and far worse in August this year. Over a period of 11 years a “staggering” amount of dairy effluent seeped into the Tairua River. He was finally fined less than $10,000 per year.

“In some respects this is about as bad as it gets,” said council investigations manager Patrick Lynch.

“Often we find discharges that result from carelessness, or even negligence, but someone deliberately polluting is rare, thankfully.”

Well I agree with Mr Lynch that we can be thankful that deliberate pollution is rare but I think we should be very concerned that they often find discharges that result from carelessness!

It is this careless risk that really speaks to the problem. What we know of the incidence of pollution from farming is but the tip of the iceberg. The far greater amount goes undetected except in our analysis of water quality. And the report card on this continues to frighten. As NIWA states:

“Despite a comprehensive clean-up of dirty ‘point-source’ discharges in the 1990s, water quality in many of our lakes and rivers is still declining. The cause this time is ‘diffuse-source’ pollution associated with intensive land use, particularly pastoral farming”.

And it is not as if we have only just discovered this. Read about the outbreak of bacillary dysentery in 1965-66 mainly centred in Stratford and the general problem with pollution from the Waitangi Tribunal.

The problem is well documented, well understood and closely related to our approach to climate change. Similar forms of denial are evident in both cases. Indeed in the way that we tolerate the destruction of our environment we see the tolerance to the destruction of our planet.

As I write this a fire is raging across the 5000-kilometre length of Indonesia.

To quote the link I am providing

“It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page”.

A great tract of the Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st Century – so far.

On this news site the most dominant story is one of Rugby!

I encourage you to follow the link above and see where we are heading. Watch the video it is happening now and it is horrifying.

Many of us think that the environmental damage caused by New Zealand farming is serious. It gives rise for deep concern on many levels. Issues of cost and efficiency, public health including the imminent threat to our water supply and long term food safety, animal welfare, even how we think of our self as a nation and our international reputation. The list could go on.

Many of us have seen the environmental problems with our own eyes. As someone who retains a close association with the land, I recognize such damage when I see it. Even if I had not had this experience, a casual reading of the media would alert me.

This month the Otago Regional Council’s regulatory committee heard that non-compliance in the 2014-15 financial year was the second highest since the council introduced its effluent discharge enforcement policy in 2007-08. Action over “effluent rule” breaches also peaked in 2014-15, with 18 infringement notices issued and 25 prosecutions undertaken.

Travel south and the situation appears worse. Hundreds of Canterbury dairy farmers have been caught out breaking their resource consent conditions
.
A report by Environment Canterbury (ECan) found more than a third of dairy farms were breaking effluent discharge rules in the last 12 months. In the Orari-Opihi-Parora zone, the third largest in the region, more farms were breaking the rules than following them.

At the beginning of this decade the Crafar Farms became the poster boys for dirty farming. Over a five year period (2007 -2011) multiple pollution and animal welfare offences of the most sickening kind took place – protected, one suspects in large part, by the money involved. At the end it was estimated the Crafar Farms owed $NZ200 million.

Lessons from The Crafar Farms are many but two that are particularly relevant are debt driven compromises and overstocking. The constant chase for the next dollar and unforeseen consequences – perhaps.

One of the many disturbing aspects of this type of crime was the time it took agencies charged with controlling pollution and animal welfare to effectively respond. As reported in 2009 by the New Zealand Herald there are questions (that are still unanswered) about how MAF dealt with the Crafar Farms. These questions include how animals were slaughtered and the speed with which authorities moved to bring under control a management that simply wasn’t managing in the best interests of anyone – man nor beast.

If you think that our authorities are now onto the question of farm related pollution you might want to think again. How does 11 years of polluting sound. To put this into context consider this question, what is the difference between a terrorist and a farmer?

What might be your response to the discovery that a “terrorist” was planning to release toxins into your water supply or poison your food ?

How about someone who releases 300,000 litres of effluent into a river on the Coromandel over a nine hour period ?

Well a Coromandel farmer was found to have done this and far worse in August this year. Over a period of 11 years a “staggering” amount of dairy effluent seeped into the Tairua River. He was finally fined less than $10,000 per year.

“In some respects this is about as bad as it gets,” said council investigations manager Patrick Lynch.

“Often we find discharges that result from carelessness, or even negligence, but someone deliberately polluting is rare, thankfully.”

Well I agree with Mr Lynch that we can be thankful that deliberate pollution is rare but I think we should be very concerned that they often find discharges that result from carelessness!

It is this careless risk that really speaks to the problem. What we know of the incidence of pollution from farming is but the tip of the iceberg. The far greater amount goes undetected except in our analysis of water quality. And the report card on this continues to frighten. As NIWA states:

“Despite a comprehensive clean-up of dirty ‘point-source’ discharges in the 1990s, water quality in many of our lakes and rivers is still declining. The cause this time is ‘diffuse-source’ pollution associated with intensive land use, particularly pastoral farming”.

And it is not as if we have only just discovered this. Read about the outbreak of bacillary dysentery in 1965-66 mainly centred in Stratford and the general problem with pollution from the Waitangi Tribunal.

The problem is well documented, well understood and closely related to our approach to climate change. Similar forms of denial are evident in both cases. Indeed in the way that we tolerate the destruction of our environment we see the tolerance to the destruction of our planet.

As I write this a fire is raging across the 5000-kilometre length of Indonesia.

To quote the link I am providing

“It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page”.

A great tract of the Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st Century – so far.

On this news site the most dominant story is one of Rugby!

I encourage you to follow the link above and see where we are heading. Watch the video it is happening now and it is horrifying.

Green, but it doesn’t sound Kiwi

Is Russel Norman’s Kiwi experience sufficient to talk about it? His latest email suggests a culture clash.

Protect your river swim, take action now

Have you taken a river swim yet this summer? That moment when you plunge in and your heart stops for just a second in the freezing water, the kids stay away from the banks so the eels can’t nibble their toes and your picnic waits on the warm stones.

An unmistakably Kiwi experience.

Who the hell wrote that? Clint? It sounds nothing like my Kiwi experience.

Sure, the cool water can take a bit of getting used to, especially if it’s in a glacial fed South Island river.

But I’ve never been worried about eels and have not seen anyone that was, and I have never heard of toe nibbling every happening. When I was a kid I often went eeling in the Clutha, and I often swam in the same river and never had any issues with eels then.

And I try to find something more comfortable than stones to picnic on.

This email is more like PR palaver with no connection to my Kiwi reality.

But it’s an experience currently at risk with 61% of monitored swimming sites on our rivers already unsafe for swimming.

River pollution is certainly an important issue that needs attention.

But if you want to appeal to ordinary Kiwis then bloody well write like an ordinary Kiwi!