Farmers’ Belated River Pledge Welcomed

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Farmers’ Belated River Pledge Welcomed

A recently announced pledge by farming leaders to improve the quality of New Zealand’s “dirty” rivers has been welcomed by a national trout fishing federation.

“It’s great news,” said Graham Carter president of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers. “It shows a new-found commitment by Federated Farmers NZ under its new invigorating leadership but I’m disappointed it’s not sooner rather than later as today.”

He said the belated recognition would not help restore once prized fully flowing rivers like the Selwyn and Irwell near Christchurch - both now dry in summer - but he suspected farmers had at last responded to public concerns and realized that the statements by the Minister for the Environment Nick Smith were denial of the crisis rivers were facing.

The half-truths and denials had also come from the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry of the Environment. Most farmers were responsible and carers of the environment. It was necessary to draw a distinction between the Kiwi family farm and corporates as the former were mostly responsible environmental stewards while corporates just wanted to stock to the maximum and in mega-numbers to achieve maximum profits regardless of the environmental consequences.

“It’s crazy and irresponsible to run dairy cows in low rainfall areas like the Canterbury Plains, South Canterbury and MacKenzie Basin. Inevitably high irrigation demand depletes the public’s rivers and causes high nitrate leaching.”

Graham Carter said the previous PM John Key, government and the Minister for the Environment Nick Smith had shown scant respect for the public’s rivers by championing more and more growth of the dairying industry.

“They don’t care a hoot about leaving a good legacy for their children or grandchildren,” he said.
He said few of New Zealand’s rivers were in a good state and there are a considerable number that need restoration work, both in terms of flow and quality. Urban areas must stop discharging any sewerage into rivers.

“This will take concerted effort by all New Zealanders – including farmers, urban areas, and local and central Government.”

The challenge facing New Zealand in improving freshwater quality was not just for farmers.

“Urban New Zealand will also need to commit to improving stormwater, sewerage and wastewater systems to achieve the Government’s goals and the Councils need to be forced to take action against increased dairying stock numbers on land that can’t sustain the numbers, and to charge royalties for water on land that was never intended for dairying,” he said.

Contact: Graham Carter president NZFFA phone 021 02600437