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Advocacy Group calls for an end to the exploitation of New Zealand’s rivers

Advocacy Group calls for an end to the exploitation of New Zealand’s rivers
January 16, 2017

A national freshwater advocacy group has called for a halt to the current exploitation of New Zealand’s rivers suffering ailing health.

New Zealand Water Forum spokesperson Ken Sims described the situation as a "diabolical collaboration between industrial agriculture and regional and central government, which has resulted in the appalling degradation of the New Zealand public's waterways."

Sims said the situation was predictable given the messages being given to primary producers by central government and agricultural industry representatives such as Fonterra, Dairy NZ and Irrigation NZ.

Sims explains “despite the plethora of toxic waterways nation-wide that the public no longer has safe access to, and despite falling aquifers and increasing groundwater pollution; central government and the agricultural industry is still calling for an intensification and expansion of the single greatest cause.

“It is absolute madness.”

Sims highlighted that the only response from the New Zealand Government to this crisis so far, had been to lower water quality standards from “swimmable" to "wadeable and boatable .

He added “it’s a thinly disguised attempt to make the problem disappear.

"Yet such a lower standard would almost certainly sicken anyone coming in direct contact with water at that standard, let alone its damage to the freshwater ecosystems."

While Government politicians have been giving the damaging messages, Sims sees that Regional Councils have been providing the environment for open slather to producers such as dairying corporates.

He believes that Council Resource Managers, charged with protecting the public’s waterways and aquatic environments, are selling out to the agricultural industry by allowing the over-extraction of the water resource.

Sims stated “seemingly without conscience, councils now are wringing their hands and suggesting that the resulting concentrated pollution is somehow a ‘natural process’.

“Most councils cannot even manage to properly control sewage outflows from towns and cities, let alone the much greater volumes of agricultural pollution."

Sims said many farmers, particularly family farm dairy operators have become the ‘meat in the sandwich’ having been told for decades by Government Ministers and urged by industry representatives to ramp up production.

He continued “this is despite independent scientific evidence to the contrary. Kiwi dairy farmers are now finding themselves the target of public wrath over the poisoning of (the public’s) waterways. In some cases, that wrath is justified, but in many it is not. Family farmers are not necessarily the wrong-doers”.

However, Sims sees that public anger is very real and growing rapidly.

He added “more and more people are telling us that they are no longer prepared to tolerate the degradation of aquatic environments they regard as theirs by tradition.

“They want action to arrest the decline. While most realise that change will be a long slow process, they want at very least acknowledgement and ownership of the problem at both a government and industry level. So far, they have seen neither."

Sims sees that the real victims of the dire situation of unhealthy rivers are the nation’s children and grandchildren who are denied the opportunity to go down to the local creek or river to swim, catch frogs and cockabullies or trout and learn to appreciate natural clean flowing waterways as past generations had.

He concluded “and that is why we shall continue to fight all the causes, regardless of whether they originate through deliberate actions or through an apathetic disregard of just letting it happen.” 

Image: Karamea River.

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