Water proposals a ‘long time coming

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By SHELLEY TOPP

Government’s new water quality and environment proposals are long overdue, despite being criticised by some farmers, a prominent Waikari water activist says.

“It has been a long time coming, says Sam Mahon, author of The Water Thieves

“What worries me though is that until the consents are reviewed or raked back from some of the worst polluters, we are still going to have a huge number of problems.”

How do we address these? He wants to see the Government’s proposals go further, with restrictions placed on water consents that have resulted in bad outcomes.

“In Denmark 30 years ago they had similar problems to what we have in New Zealand, whereby the intensification of dairy farming and the resultant huge runoff resulted in widespread water pollution,” he says.

The problem caused a public outcry in Denmark and now farmers there have to renew a permit annually to farm.

In New Zealand, the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) and the National Environmental Standards (NES) proposals were announced on September 5. They are aimed at improving the quality of New Zealand’s waterways and are open for consultation until October 31.

Farming leaders say the proposals are unworkable and will bankrupt some farmers.

Irrigation plans in the Hurunui have divided the community since the now defunct Hurunui Water Project was first mooted.

Amuri Irrigation has since been trying to establish a smaller piped scheme, but has been unable to get enough farmer support.

The outgoing Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley, who is also a fourth-generation sheep and beef farmer, has called the irrigation proposal’s recent failure “very disappointing” for the Hawarden and Waikari communities.

“After 20 years of planning and millions of local dollars invested, there is now going to be no immediate possibility of a substantial irrigation scheme for their district,” he says.

However, Sam takes a different view. He believes the failure of the proposed scheme will benefit Hurunui’s environment and waterways and help pave the way back to sustainable farming.

“When I first came here more than 30 years ago I knew everybody,” Sam says.

“We would have barn dances and everyone would come. Now the community is divided and that is unhealthy. What has caused the division has been greed. The proposal failed because farmers no longer have the stomach for high debt.”