FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Sensible Water Policies

Action at last on crucial water issues?

By Roger Childs

A long overdue fresh approach on water

After endless fudging by Environment Minister, Nick Smith, on the parlous state of our waterways, Labour’s new leader is seizing the cow by the horns.

We know that the election will be won and lost on policies, although a charismatic leader will help! Ardern has quickly started the process of telling New Zealand what her new government will do to tackle some of the nation’s many problems.

Jacinda Ardern is proposing a clean-up of our rivers and charging commercial entities for using our precious water resources. Many farmers are howling, but some of them have been plundering and polluting our waterways for decades.

Labour’s fresh approach is heartening, but can it be implemented?

Dirty rivers

Once upon a time we use to swim in our rivers but not anymore. It’s even dangerous to go wading.

Over many years councils, farmers and foresters have devastated our valuable water resources.

~ Local authorities have poured partly treated waste into rivers.

~ Debris from timber milling has been washing into waterways.

~ Effluent from dairy farms has made its way into streams.

~ Nitrates have run-off into waterways, most notably in Canterbury

~ Irrigation has reduced the water carried in aquifers and reduced the levels of rivers.

~ Ugly cross-blading by bulldozers has reduced the meanders of rivers such as the Ashley and limited the opportunities for fishermen.

 ~ pollution generally has reduced the number of fish in the rivers and birds on the banks.

It is time to rein in farmers, in particular, who have had open access to the nation’s precious water for too long. Their impact has been to plunder, pollute and reduce this valuable resource.

Bottling companies should also be realistically charged for the water they use, just as industries pay for any other resource.

Too hard, won’t do? 

Farmers in particular are screaming about having to pay, the impact on the national economy and the likely rise in the cost of living. This is the expected over-reaction.

It certainly won’t be easy to implement a new policy of putting a levy on water use, however Labour’s slogan is We can do this.

Ardern is sensibly not saying we will do this by Christmas. She realises that discussions are needed with the people likely to be affected, and will call a conference in the first 100 days of the new administration.

The proposed Labour policy on water is a welcome initiative after years of National inaction. If Ardern can pull it off there will be benefits in terms of cleaning up our waterways, making users pay and become more responsible, providing jobs and generating income for the government.

Sounds good.

(For an excellent analysis on these issues, read Bill Benfield’s recently published book. Water, Quality and Ownership, is available for $20 at Paper Plus, Coastlands (and Levin) or direct from the publisher: Tross