Where dairy farming is going

The $11.6 million cleanup of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere will be a collaborative effort by central government, Ngāi Tahu, Environment Canterbury, Fonterra, Selwyn District Council, Lincoln University and the local community.

In announcing the initiative, Environment Minister Nick Smith said:

“Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is New Zealand’s most polluted lake and a co-ordinated cleanup is overdue. This plan involves changes to the Water Conservation Order, millions of dollars to fund clean up work, changes to farm practices in the lake’s catchments, riparian planting and relationship agreements to keep the work programme on track,” Dr Smith said . . .

“$11.6 million is being committed to clean up the lake made up of contributions of $6.1 million from the Government, $3.5 million from Environment Canterbury, $1.3 million from Fonterra, $500,000 from Ngāi Tahu and the balance from the Selwyn District Council, Waihora Ellesmere Trust and Lincoln University. There will also be a substantial commitment to the clean up from local volunteers.

“This is the most significant fresh water clean up project New Zealand has undertaken because of the severity of the pollution and the size of the lake. It has taken 50 years for it to get into this mess and it will take a long-term commitment to put it right. The significance of today is that Ngāi Tahu, farmers, community representatives, local, regional and central government, as well as New Zealand’s largest company, are committed to working together to drive the changes needed to reduce pollutants entering the lake and put it on the road to recovery. . .

Writing about the project in the Sunday Star Times, (not online) Federated farmers president Bruce Wills said the rehabilitation provides a template farmers can back.

Instead of finger pointing, government, iwi, industry, councils and farmers are working together . . .

Te Waihora needs only a little of the immense wealth farming ahs generated for the country over these decades to be put back into it. But Te Waihora also needs action of the 15,000 pest Canada geese estimated to be there – each Canada goose is like having a sheep living ont he water.

It’s why are farmers are saying that lake Ellesmere represents where dairy farming was. Te Wiahora is about where dairy farming is going. It will mean undoing decades of damage from a less enlightened time, there’s no such thing as ‘the good old days’ with farm environmental practice.

A Canterbury spirit can be seen with Fonterra Cooperative Group joining farmers in working for the lake. Te Waihora indicates a dairy industry that’s facing up to the past but is working with the community for a common future.”

While not all farmers and farming practices in the past were unsustainable, it is true that too many were.

We can’t change that but we can ensure we do better in the future.

If the  Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere clean-up is successful it could provide a model for other areas to follow.

20 Responses to Where dairy farming is going

  1. robertguyton says:

    What killed Ellesmere?
    And what caused the Government to pluck $6million from the air at this time?
    Farming. The coming election.

  2. homepaddock says:

    Farming was one of the factors which contributed to the lake’s problems, Robert but not the only one.

    When we have elections every three years a whole lot of things which have been worked on for ages will make progress in election year.

  3. Scotty says:

    What other factors contributed to the lakes problems and to what extent? 10% ? 59%?.
    What percentage of farmers’ “immense wealth” will be used to clean up the mess .
    Not enough IMO.

  4. Cadwallader says:

    “The most polluted…” title seems to be particularly mobile in NZ these days. Already this year Lake Pupuke and the Manawatu River have borne this dubious and emotive description. Last year I read that the Wanganui River, the Heathcote River and the Waikato River all shared the “most polluted” description. The science can’t be settled if the designation can be so readily applicable, can it? What is the least polluted river or lake in NZ? No research on that topic?

  5. Roger Barton says:

    Cad: You missed out the Waiwhetu stream that runs through the Lower Hutt area. Fouled with industrial waste. They shipped it all to the dump at wainuiomata and then found that they hadn’t issued themselves (Greater wgtn Regional council) a Resource consent to do so and had to shift it again. VERY efficient!!

  6. homepaddock says:

    “What other factors contributed to the lakes problems and to what extent?”

    Canada geese to start with, I’ve no idea to what extent.

    The immense wealth Wills referred to isn’t faremrs’ but what they’ve generated for the country.

    Cadwallader & Roger – there are still several rivers being fouled by domestic and industrial pollution.

  7. robertguyton says:

    Federated Farmers traditionally blame water fowl for ruined lakes, rivers, estuaries and lagoons.
    So Ele, we’ve got farming and water fowl.
    Is that it? Are they the two factors that ruined Te Waihora?

  8. homepaddock says:

    Robert – people, some but not all of whom are/were farmers, and their actions over successive generations would have largely been to blame.

    That has been acknowledged and the energy must now go into rehabilitation and preventing the problems happening again.

  9. robertguyton says:

    I see.
    Do you know Ele, if people who are farming are proposing to move back from the edges of the lake? Are the farmers that farm the land that surrounds the lake going to reduce their stock numbers? Are those farmers going to voluntarily cap their fertilizer application?
    What do the farmers plan to do to restore the ruined lake?
    David Carter recently intervened to prevent the return of some Ellesmere shoreline farmland to it’s pre-farmed state, do you remember that Ele? Odd turn-around, this enthusiasm for saving it.
    If the damage has been largely done by farming ‘people’, why aren’t those people largely paying to restore it? The general taxpayer has been chosen instead.

  10. gravedodger says:

    Many sheet the very high coliform counts of the water on the little beach in Akaroa home to Canada Geese and until the Rec ground was replanted with a grass variety unnattractive to the filthy birds it was not a pleasant place to walk.
    Of course the filthy Dairy farmers 9 Kms away at Duvauchelle will be the main cause of the beach problem.

  11. Cadwallader says:

    Again: If the most polluted river or lake can be readily identified why can’t the least polluted? I take it this quest would fail political necessity.
    If Lake Ellesmere is the current reigning champion what is being done about the second and third placed targets?

  12. homepaddock says:

    I don’t know the answers to your first three questions Robert but Federated Farmers is involved in the rehabilitation.

    You can’t make current individual landowners pay for damage done over decades. You can however, hold them responsible for any breaches of the RMA now which ought to prevent further damage.

    Cadwallader – maybe we could have a competition for best and most improved?

  13. Sally says:

    Robert is onto it – $6M plucked from nowhere, election year.

    Let’s not forget them recently picking up the tab for the now bust Earthquake Commission’s billion-dollar-plus excess for insuring Christchurch.

    Micheal Coote’s excellent article in the paid content section of NBR “NZ beside US on credit ratings’ slippery slope” shows how out of kilter this government is with its wasteful spend, borrow (and hope) programmes as if there is no tomorrow.

    With the imminent election, Key and his cohorts just love the many distractions taking place – Rugby World Cup, Pike River enquiry and their shameful exploitation of the Christchurch earthquake disaster the PM and his treasurer come across as believing that this country is bullet proof from any further credit downgrades. Key’s craftiness at distracting and confusing the public is totally immoral

    Mr Coote wonders where is the independent inquiry into how a billion dollars of sovereign debt was “burned” to pay off the high risk interest rate investors in SCF. Could it be that the blame might be laid at the feet of the PM and his treasurer?

    But then as always those at the top never take full responsibility for their inept decisions, do they?

  14. Cadwallader says:

    OK but how is “pollution” defined? I recently heard that the wind-farms near Palmerston North are “visually polluting.” Are rivers measured by this nebulous measure or is it water quality? If it is water quality then this standard will vary daily, if not hourly, depending on rainfall and usage.
    I suspect that pollution is a readily availble catch-cry to those who resent management of the environment. This cynical suspicion has developed against a long period of noisy resentment towards those who sustainably manage their affairs.

  15. robertguyton says:

    Cad – some kindly advice – your ignorance over the issue of water quality should be kept under wraps until you’ve done some research.

    Sally – that’s a very accurate summation you’ve made there. I’d not expect to get any traction from it here though, despite its clarity. This is Key Country after all!

  16. robertguyton says:

    Gravedodger – now that farmers have assumed responsibility for managing Canadian Geese, the problem is as good as gone, eh.

  17. gravedodger says:

    It will not be that simple Robert as when some fine day with the geese in the moult a bunch of ‘red necks’ armed to the gunwhales will round up a bunch of the birds and dispatch them .
    I hear the wail of protest and the moult hasn’t really started yet.
    I hope needling the eggs is well under way.
    At least the explosion of numbers has resulted in a little sanity though in making realistic control measures legal even if it took that many years.

  18. Sally says:

    Thanks Robert

    I do despair at the myopic views of what I consider to be intelligent people

  19. robertguyton says:

    I’m on tenterhooks waiting to see if the change in legislation results in an improvement or a worsening of the situation GD.
    I’m expecting the latter and plenty of it.
    Are farmers needling?
    I too hope someone is doing it and any resulting explosion of goose numbers doesn’t become the responsibility of regional councils and a cost-burden to the general rate payer.

  20. Richard says:

    HP – it does seem to be a small election present- but a good one. It shows, I think, that separate groups can come together for a particular cause and for a unifying goal. The issue is who brings the parties together? Ultimately it is the government. but a model to follow.
    GD: I think a shoot- fest, of Canada Geese might be a good idea. Training would need to be given to the likes of RG – but it is not impossible —-?

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