Beauty and blots

The ODT’s report on plans for irrigation in the Mackenzie basin illustrates two opposing views.

Forest and Bird South Island conservation manager Chris Todd said the proposed irrigation to allow intensive farming of the basin could turn its “spectacular dry, sunburnt vistas” into a replica of the highly developed Canterbury Plains.

“Industrial-scale farming in our most fragile and visually stunning high country landscapes is not sustainable.”

The second has a different view:

Mackenzie Irrigation Company director Murray Valentine, of Dunedin, said compared with the size of the Mackenzie Basin, the 27,000ha that farmers wanted to irrigate was very small.

The plan was not to irrigate the high country but the “flat land”, he said.

If farmers got approval, they could increase stock rates per hectare by up to 15 times.

“We’re talking about areas that are basically the nearest thing we have to desert and are completely modified with hieracium and wilding pines.”

In some countries bringing life to the desert, with the economic, environmental and social benefits which follow is seen as a wonderful achievement.

The scenery in this area is stunning to most people, but they drive through it at 100 kilometres an hour – or faster – on the journey between Canterbury and Central Otago.

It’s a different picture for many of those who live in the Mackenzie. They too see beauty but those “spectacular, dry sunburnt vistas”  are heartbreaking for people trying to earn a living who would regard the green pastures of Canterbury as paradise.

It’s possible to make objective decisions on such things as pollution of waterways, but beauty is subjective.

One person’s stunning scenery is another’s blot on the landscape.

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