Labour’s water quality policy

Wairoa Star Column – June 2017

Last Friday evening Labour’s Tukituki candidate, Anna Lorke, and I hosted our Water spokesman David Parker at a public meeting in Havelock North to launch Labour’s water quality policy.

David is possibly the smartest person in politics, and worked as a resource management lawyer before entering parliament in 2002. In private practise he represented a number of the country’s largest environmental organisations as well as companies that use our precious resources for commercial gain. One thing about David is that he is passionate about the enviornment – and more importantly has a plan to fix it.

Let’s look at the big picture. New Zealand’s global brand, ‘Clean Green 100% Pure’, was valued at over $20b/ann in 2005. A study undertaken in 2008 showed that over 80% of New Zealand exporting companies used our national brand as part of their marketing story due to its positive attributes. It’s what we take to the world and it’s why we get a premium for many of our products in key export markets.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the brand is fast becoming a myth. Over 60% of our rivers are now unsuitable for swimming at certain times of the year, periodically dogs die from drinking contaminated water from the Tukituki River, and on our doorstep Lake Tutira is pretty much dead; in summer covered in a foul-smelling algae. There is chlorine in the Napier water supply and 5,000 people in Havelock North were poisoned because they drank comtaminated water. These is not the conditions expected in a first world country that prides itself on Clean Green 100% Pure!

How did it get this bad. Well, due to the massive dairy boom, there are over 1,000,000 more cows in NZ than there were in 2008. Cows produce around 14 times more effluent than humans, so our environment is being taxed in a way that it has never ever been before, and in many places it is simply not coping. I am not saying that a million more cows is all bad, as the increase in dairying has driven economic growth and prosperity in a number of our regions, but it has come at a cost.

There are many farmers who are responsible in the way they manage their land and who use innovative ways to ensure effluent does not pollute our waterways, estuaries etc, but there are also, unfortunately, a number who aren’t so responsible. Last time I travelled to Ngatapa, I took some photos of cows walking in a stream. Now that’s wrong.

David Parker’s message is that if we get the regulatory settings right and ensure the regional councils apply the law consistently and appropriately (rather than continually turn a blind eye to nefarious activities) then the rivers will actually heal themselves over time. But what Labour will do is design and implement a National Policy Statement on freshwater management that actually sets out a vision for New Zealand’s streams and lakes that will once again return them to a state that they were in when we were young. I would love to take my children camping on the banks of Lake Tutira like my father used to do. Now that is the New Zealand we believe should exist.

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