THE PUBLIC'S WATERWAYS
Recently former Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy was bleating the new government is holding back regional New Zealand through its opposition to water storage projects which he says help grow jobs in the regions, boost exports and provide environmental sustainability. By his utterances Guy shows the lack of environmental stewardship of the previous government.
Contrary to what Guy says, the Government deserves congratulations. It is supporting regional development by its opposition to water storage projects that will severely damage environmental sustainability and in the long term erode economic returns. Guy hasn’t worked out that a NZ’s exports depend on the clean green image. Dry river beds and algae infested stagnant pools from once pristine trout rivers such as Canterbury's Selwyn, are a bad advertisement for exports and tourism.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s says that irrigation projects are 'unnecessary' and should not be subsidised and that the Government will leave it to farmers and growers to 100% fund any schemes on their own is commendable. After all since 1984, the free market for better or worse has reigned and subsidies are out. The Federation of Freshwater Anglers sees the previous National-led government’s zeal for corporate dairying and creating dairy pastures in low rainfall as short-sighted. The Federation is not against sustainable farming with environmental responsibility. However it views the single focus on dairying as falling well short of the mark. Yes dairying has a lot to answer for with uncontrolled water takes and leaching of nitrates. But degradation of waterways has also occurred due to mono-cultures of pines and silt-laden run-off following clear felling logging. Also the fact that some urban areas still discharge sewage into rivers is disgraceful.
Dry weather conditions and drought are natural events that occur regularly and farmers must be prepared for them individually and collectively. If they grow products and don’t have the necessary water storage then it’s just like any other business – the onus is on the business owner. Water storage can be done environmentally and the dams and resulting lakes on the Maniototo Plains are a good example. Irrigation is catered for and recreational fisheries are created.
Farmers need to provide their own water storage which is absolutely necessary for these areas. It reduces the need for ground water extraction and can enhance the environment by guaranteeing minimum river flows during dry summers
The Crown Irrigation Investments officials recently told Select Committee MPs that stakeholders are 'confused and anxious' about the Government’s priorities for water storage and irrigation projects and this confusion is adding to declining business confidence overall. They failed to mention that this government has higher priorities around environmental issues than helping farmers decimate water resources.
Nationals attitude to these issues has caused the confusion and is blowing the issue way out of proportion.
Five specific irrigation projects all considered 'localised' by National and Councils are on hold while funding allocated by the previous National Government is parked up. To make matters worse, many farmers and growers and Councils have themselves invested in developing these schemes and this 45,000 hectare investment is now at real risk. This shows the level of greed and highlights the importance of stopping further decimation of our waterways and must be stopped.
Frankly the National-led government had no concern or regard for the environment. Consequently the coalition Government has no moral or legal obligation to honour existing agreements.
The Federation defines conservation as 'the wise use of resources". In a nutshell, restoring our rivers, streams and lakes to healthy ecosystems is a responsibility for all, both town and country. The new government has made a promising start to respecting that culture. The public, both urban and rural, will be watching for more positive progress.
Graham Carter President Federation of Freshwater Anglers