Something in the water

There must be something odd in the water at Newshub. Just because they polled on water royalties they claim that it could be a “major election issue”.

They are trying to make a major headline issue out of something they plucked out of the water.

Newshub poll: 87pct say charge royalties on water

The exporting of New Zealand water looks likely to be a major election issue.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll shows 87 percent of New Zealanders are unhappy that exporters are able to obtain the water for next-to-nothing then send it offshore for big profits.

Water consents are very cheap – and profits are big.

This is more like agenda promotion rather than an unbiased poll report.

The numbers on ‘Should water bottling companies pay a royalty?’

  • Yes 87%
  • No 9%
  • Don’t know 4%

This is hardly a surprising result. And the Newshub over flavouring of the water debate is not surprising either.

They trotted out comments by opposition MPs James Shaw and David Parker, and found an ‘ordinary person’ neighbouring a Chinese owned water bottling plant who doesn’t like it.

This is blatant making a story to promote a poll result by Newshub – trying to make an issue out of something that most people probably barely care about let alone would base their vote on.

They don’t seem to have polled on “Would you be happy to pay a royalty on the water you use?”

Neither does there seem to be a poll on “Would you prefer that Newshub reported more on things that actually matter?”

The Newshub-Reid Research poll was conducted June 2-12. 1000 people were surveyed, 750 by telephone and 250 by internet panel. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Water charges possible post election

Bill English seems to have reacted to public pressure over water exports.

NZ Herald: Government asks for advice on charging for freshwater following public campaign

The Government is asking for advice on whether it should be charging companies to export bottled freshwater in response to rising public pressure on the issue.

Prime Minister Bill English said today that ministers were writing to a technical advisory group today to investigate a price on water allocation, but only in relation to the relatively small bottled water industry.

That is despite Environment Minister Nick Smith emphatically saying last week that it was not worth looking at because bottled water made up a fraction of the freshwater used in New Zealand.

Speaking at his weekly press conference this afternoon, English said he sought more advice because of “growing public concerns” about the issue.

He reiterated that the issue was complicated and that any charge would mark a fundamental shift in policy in New Zealand.

Until now it has not been possible to charge for water, only for it’s distribution and supply (usually through rates or water charges), or the cost of installing and maintaining irrigation systems, or the cost of extracting, bottling and distributing commerically sold water.

“We’re not saying it’s too hard, we’re just saying it’s hard.

“Because it’s a big shift for New Zealand, to say we’re actually going to put a price on water.

“Water has been free, it hasn’t been owned by anybody.”

RNZ: Labour acccuses PM of putting off water tax question

The government is being accused of passing the buck by asking a specialist group to look into the idea of taxing water.

Opposition parties say a similar government group has already looked at the matter and come up empty – and it won’t be any different this time.

But the Labour Party said Mr English was deliberately delaying the question until after the election.

The party’s water spokesperson, David Parker, said the advisory group would make no difference and the plan was “another flip flop from the Prime Minister”.

“Three days ago he was saying nothing could be done, and then he was saying something’s to be done and now he’s saying something’s to be done on the never-never. Flip-flopping like a fish out of water.”

English has left himself open to attacks like this.

However it would be ludicrous to respond to public pressure, which has only been applied in the last week or so, with a hurried law change, even if it was practical to fit it in to the legislative schedule.

Water is a victim of electioneering here.

Just slapping sudden charges on something that has never been charged for before would be nuts – especially given the likelihood there would be Waitangi Tribunal complications.

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.

The dirty water debate

Nick Smith and National continue to get a clobbering over the water policy announced yesterday – see Keep your head above water. – that has a deferred target nearly a quarter of a century away.

A lot of people may see it similarly. It was my first impression, and most people don’t look any further.

Stuff: New water target ‘challenging’

Vernon Small: New ‘swimmable’ fresh water targets are also 100% pure politics

You can argue about E,coli levels, and debate just what “swimmable” should mean.

As the Greens will.

And yes, those details are important.

But like the Government’s Predator Free by 2050 policy, its target of 90 per cent swimmable rivers and lakes by 2040 is just plain old good politics.

I’m not sure this is good politics.

Just like the 2050 predator free target, the promise is on the never-never and the day of reckoning in both cases will come long after this Government and these ministers have gone.

It is a tactic National have used before, and will use again as the election approaches.

Let’s call it policy inoculation.

In places where you are vulnerable, where your opponents have a stronger hand, you don’t necessarily have to play an ace.

But if you show a willingness to move you can take a lot of the wind out of your rivals’ sails.

Water quality is fundamental. Playing campaign games with it could easily backfire, and it may only need one significant backfire to turn the election against National.

Most voters will get that 2040 is a long time after September’s election.

Just listening to Smith being interviewed on RNZ – he is complaining about misunderstanding medians and percentages and other tedious details.

Too late. He has stuffed up his policy announcement

The Nation – bad Havelock water, good Helen Kelly

On The Nation today, the bad water in Havelock North:

The gastro outbreak in Havelock North is the worst in 30 years… so who’s to blame and what happens now? talks to Lawrence Yule And Massey University ecologist Mike Joy on how to stop something like this happening again

Yule says the Council has “no idea” how the fecal matter got into the bores, and the bores are still testing postive for e-coli

Yule says it wasn’t clear to him until Saturday how many people had become ill.

And Helen Kelly:

. talks to about her campaigns for workers’ rights, medical marijuana & why she won’t be writing a bucket list

What went wrong in Havelock North’s water supply? talks to Hasting mayor Lawrence Yule

Ecologist Mike Joy on the water crisis in Havelock North. How can we stop it happening again?

on workers’ rights, medicinal cannabis, and much more. Our very special full IV here:

Hawkes Bay water and Whale Oil

Duncan Brown has sent this observation of a post and comments at Whale Oil on the Havelock North water problems.

On WhaleOil yesterday, in a post entitled, ” Did CHB shit cause the gastro outbreak in Havelock North?”, the ubiquitous and anonymous Teknonym published an old photo of the Waipawa River, with the following text:

“It is shit from the non compliant CHB waste water scheme running into the Waipawa river. Not far down stream this runs into the Tukituki River, which runs down through CHB into Hawkes Bay past Havelock North.

The water from the Tukituki could be contaminating the Havelock North Town Supply.
Remember this is water that the extremely dodgy Hawkes Bay Regional Council is allowing to be polluted because they are not enforcing the consents on CHB, who continue to pour their shit into our rivers.”

The key line, an absolute conjecture is in the second paragraph, “The water from the Tukituki could be contaminating the Havelock North Town Supply.”

Fair enough, WhaleOil can have their hobby horses, every blogger does. It’d be nice if they could add a bit of science, you know, balanced reporting and all that, as they so regularly demand from the MSM and anyone else they disagree with.

But the conversation gets interesting in the comments:

First out of his corner is F T Bear…

  • F T Bear11 hours ago

    If you are not going to take the time to understand the aquifer system and how it works, and just sit back making silly conclusions based on someones personal crusade. You become just like all the Duncan Garners and HDPA’s and all the other left leaning fools that get a hard time on this blog.
    The water in the Tuki Tuki river has NOTHING to do with the water taken from a well near Havelock North

Pete jumps into the ring, wearing his gloves AND his referee’s uniform, and throws a haymaker…

  • Pete Mod F T Bear

    Mayor Yule can’t get two back to back water tests to deliver a consistent result, yet you keep coming here and have all the answers. Everybody says they have no real idea, including Tonkin Taylor, and you come here and are ruling this out. You might be right, but the council could do with your knowledge, your confidence and blind faith. Don’t waste it here.

Let me translate: It’s Mayor Yule’s fault, and because the results are inconsistent, HE is inconsistent. You obviously just don’t get it. No one really knows, and although you’ve obviously got your own opinion – and you might be right – any view other than Teknonym’s is not welcome on this blog.
Understandably, in the face of such worthy opposition, F T Bear backs-off, just a little, then jabs a bit

  • F T Bear Pete • But everything I have said is public knowledge. I just read and listen.

    The Tonkin Taylor report has nothing to do with Waipawa river, what I’m saying is you are misleading with your speculation.
    Since Saturday morning they have tested the water in Havelock every day and have no positive tests, to say he can’t put two tests back to back is also misleading.

Pete senses his opponent’s weakness, and gives him the old one-two…

  • Pete Mod F T Bear

    I just got it from the radio news where Mayor Yule said the latest test came back negative, so the previous one was a false positive. This is on the tanker.

    The point being that if these tests are so crap “publicly available” information is clearly not reliable.

    It amuses me that the first test was a false positive, as opposed to the second test being a false negative.

    You know. Spin, and all that.

    But that’s what this platform is for. And we don’t need your snide remarks. Just state your case, others, such as hard1 state theirs.

    ” You become just like all the Duncan Garners and HDPA’s” is sufficient to kick you to the kerb for trolling. I haven’t, because I’m sure it’s just a slip up. By all means defend your position, but don’t start kicking the moderators shins because they will eventually react.

Let me translate: My facts are better than your facts. We don’t like spin around here, unless it’s ours. Throw a punch we don’t like, even if it’s a legitimate comparison, that’s a foul and you’ll be out for the count. And don’t bother with any official protest, I’m the ref too, sucker!
And F T Bear whimpers a little, hits himself, throws his arms around a couple of times and throws in the towel…

  • F T Bear Pete

    Sorry, It is definitely not my intention to up set things, or you, I will give myself an uppercut.

    My points all along in this is that we jump to conclusions and start mixing fact with fiction that very soon becomes more fact.
    One of the issues is the terminology and on that I agree it could be better. As you and all your readers know sometimes our press are a bit fast and loose with the truth, misleading with bits and pieces just cause more angst.

    The problem with the test on the tanker that came back as a positive was the water was from a bore in Hastings which is why they chlorinated Hastings water. It is more than likely a tanker problem not a water problem. They haven’t had a positive test from the water in Havelock since the dosed it last Friday night.

    My other point is that the Waipawa river , RWSS, have nothing to do with this Havelock situation, I believe you only cloud and confuse by bring it up.

Translation: Thanks ref, I’m sorry I hit you where it hurts, here, I’ll do penance. Let me reiterate my point, but I’ll also blame the media cos I know that will make you happy. (whisper) And by the way, my points were valid.

And noting his opponent’s much subdued demeanor, the ref graciously doesn’t reply to the substance of his argument and declares himself the winner.

Judge’s decision: FT Bear loses the bout and might never return to the ring. The promoter loses cos he’s soon going to run out of fair-minded opponents. The audience loses and goes home disappointed to play tiddlywinks. The ref crows to his sycophants in the blue corner how once again he won the fight, fair and square, hardly noticing the rapidly emptying stadium beyond. The janitor of the once-worthy establishment prepares to turn out the lights, and heads off to the nearest bar to reflect on the good old days and weeps for what might have been.

Bad water in Havelock North

A lot is being said and worried about the gastro outbreak in Havelock North. It is obviously a major a concern for the people there, and also the health authorities and the local council that supplies the water.

Last night the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board said there were 191 confirmed or probable cases of campylobacter now reported.

It has also been estimated that about 2,000 residents may have been affected. That’s a lot out of a population of about 13,000.

One thing it highlights to me is how much we take our water quality for granted, just expecting it to always be healthy.

Many people in many countries have a lot more problems with lack of safe water. And it’s only recent history that has seen large populations supplied with consistently healthy water. Most of the time.

There is a risk that we could be generally becoming less tolerant of things like bad water.

I grew up with a supply of water that came from a water race kilometres long which went through a number of farms. It was normal to clear debris from the race, including sometimes dead animals.

We survived, and I don’t recall much of a gastro problem.

How many generations of safe water supply will it take for us to become easily affected by unhealthy blips in supply?

Time to act on water quality

Problems with water availability and quantity are of increasing concern in New Zealand.

Today’s NZ Herald editorial: Urgent need to act on our water supply

Trucks are delivering water to parched vineyards in Marlborough. As river levels dip in the hottest months, water quality falls. Warning signs beside freshwater lagoons at Piha, Karekare and Bethells because of overloaded septic tanks are a familiar summer sight.

Toxic algae has been detected at 15 freshwater sites in Canterbury. North of Christchurch, people who draw water from rural supplies with shallow intakes must permanently boil water used for drinking, oral hygiene and food preparation.

The signs are not positive.

Six years ago, the Government asked the Land and Water Forum to create a plan for freshwater management. The forum, which draws together 67 organisations and is meant to work collaboratively, has made dozens of recommendations in a series of reports on how best to manage water.

In its fourth and latest document, issued in November, the forum pleaded for action, warning that without some concrete steps water quality would continue to deteriorate, and the country would further squander what the forum rightly calls a national treasure and strategic asset.

Forum chairman Alastair Bisley delivered a blunt message to Environment Minister Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, reminding them that most of the previous 153 recommendations continued to gather dust.

Mr Bisley pointedly noted that the forum’s very first recommendation in its new report was to implement all the others “and do that as soon as possible”.

All New Zealanders expect reliable access to clean water. The economy rests on its assured supply. As many as 200,000 jobs – in dairying, horticulture and tourism – directly depend on water.

The Government has been handed all it needs to make their livelihoods secure and protect a renewable asset. It ought to act soon.

From the Land and Water Forum:

In February 2015 Ministers for the Environment and Primary Industries asked the Forum to assist the Government with further development and delivery of water policy reform.

On 27 November 2015 the Forum released the Fourth Report of the Land and Water Forum (pdf, 2.5MB) on how to maximise the economic benefits of freshwater while managing within water quality and quantity limits that are set consistent with the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM). It also recommends exclusion of livestock from waterways on plains and lowland hills, addresses a number of urban issues and suggests tools and approaches to assist the Crown’s exploration of rights and interests with iwi.

From the Fourth report:

Fresh water is however a resource that has come under increasing pressure over the last 20 years. In our first report, we noted that although it is still good overall and rates well internationally, both its quality and its availability have been declining, especially in lowland areas, as land use has intensified and our population has grown.

We have made significant progress in dealing with point source discharges, but diffuse discharges remain an issue, and some urban and pastoral waterways remain highly polluted.

Many catchments are overallocated with contaminants.

Lags mean that impacts of present and past practices may not reveal themselves for some time, while. Climate change will increase our difficulties.

Poorer water quality adversely affects biodiversity, aquatic ecosystems, invasive species and in-stream uses,. impacting our health and our amenities.

The report makes a number of recommendations, starting with:

Recommendation 1: The government should complete implementing the Forum’s recommendations from its three previous reports as soon as possible. Unless otherwise explicitly stated in this report, those earlier recommendations remain unchanged.

Increasing land production and population will keep putting more pressure on water resources. This may be accentuated by affects of climate change.

Water availability and quality are fundamental requirements. Government should be doing whatever it can to provide these.

NASA Confirms that liquid water flows on Mars

As predicted the big news announcement from NASA was that they have “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars”.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene.
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

Animation of the site of seasonal; flows in Hales Crater.

More information on this NASA announcement: NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

More information about NASA’s journey to Mars:

More information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Mars true-color globe showing Terra Meridiani.
Credits: NASA/Greg Shirah

Mars is the next planet out in the solar system from  Earth. While it is quite a bit smaller (about half the diameter and about as much surface area as there is land on Earth):

File:Mars, Earth size comparison.jpg

Mars has two small moons, Phobos (22 km diameter) and Deimos (12 km diameter).

The next big thing to discover – is there life on Mars?

Dunne on Māori, water, wind and race relations

Peter Dunne in a recent address to Petone Rotary:

Māori, water and the wind

Another issue that has been exercising our minds recently and that may well be before the courts soon is that of the Māori claims on water.

While Māori do have rights with respect to water interests, they are not and never can ever be exclusive rights.

Were they to be so, the logical conclusion must be that all New Zealand’s natural resources are owned by Māori – a claim long since rejected.

As with the foreshore and seabed, natural resources like air and water belong to all New Zealanders, and it is the Crown’s responsibility to exercise that ownership equally and fairly on behalf of us all.

Where customary usage can be established we should negotiate particular settlements in each specific instance, again in a manner similar to the provisions of the foreshore and seabed legislation.

UnitedFuture long promoted the public domain solution for the foreshore and seabed, which was finally enshrined in the 2010 legislation.

The same principle ought to be followed in respect of the current water rights debate.

Threat to Race Relations

I think at this point we also need to step back a little because there is something going on here that needs to be challenged.

Since its signing in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi, our nation’s founding document, has been both honoured and dishonoured in various ways at various times.

But I would like to think we have got a little better – perhaps a lot better – in recent times at facing up to these issues.

On the occasions that the Treaty has been breached in word, deed or spirit, it has often been the Pākehā at fault, as evidenced by the much needed and very important Treaty settlements process of recent years.

In recent months, however, I believe we are seeing greed and opportunism and an attempt to cash-in, coming from some sections of Māori leadership, and none of it does credit to them.

In an age when we are righting wrongs of the past; in an age where Pākehā New Zealanders, I think, generally acknowledge the transgressions of their predecessors and with goodwill, want to see them put right, aspects of recent developments are very concerning.

Greed, it would seem, is not just a white man’s sin.

Māori leadership would do well to consider the implications of some of their particularly unreasonable demands around water – and now it would appear, coming further in from the fringes, the wind.

There is a well of goodwill in New Zealand among non-Māori and Māori alike.

Most New Zealanders genuinely want to understand, and then engage in and resolve issues around the Treaty of Waitangi.

But it is not a bottomless well of goodwill on either side.

Greed and opportunistic resource grabs are neither ethical nor smart, and will come at considerable cost to social harmony in this country that we all have to share today.

Sadly, it is once more a case of the extremists at either end of the argument who risk destroying the capacity of the rest of us to reach balanced, fair and enduring solutions, that the vast majority of us can live with.