The headline says Dirty dairying laid bare.
It’s only when you get well down the story that you find out:
The number of convictions fell from 51 in 2008-09 to 18 in the year to date. Abatement notices and infringement notices have also decreased, from 537 to 329 and 500 to 330.
That’s still too high but it is still a small minority of the thousands of farms which are causing problems and as Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says farming isn’t the only source of water pollution:
Farmers wanted to do their fair share, but they were receiving the lion’s share of criticism when environmental degradation was more widespread, he said.
“Farmers acknowledge our farming systems have an impact on the environment and there is no question about that. We want clean water too and we are happy to be part of the solution and be engaged fully. What needs to be more of this conversation is urban New Zealand also has an influence.”
We drink this water so have a very real interest in ensuring it is potable.
He said sewage treatment plants flowing into urban towns and rural centres seemed to gain less attention than the effect of farming on the environment.
The treatment of human waste has come under more pressure as the population of New Zealand has increased 25 per cent with an extra 900,000 people over the past 20 years.
Wills said the Tukituki River in Hawke’s Bay was an example of the urban influence, with 50 per cent of the phosphorus coming from the oxidation ponds from nearby towns.
“We don’t hear about this conversation often. We hear about the bloody dairy farmers again and stock in the waterways. That has to change, but we just want the community to recognise it’s not just the rural community [contributing] to degraded water.”
Bad practices with urban waste isn’t an excuse for farmers to get away with not complying with discharge conditions.
But let’s have a bit of balance – the responsibility for ensuring we have clean waterways doesn’t just lie with farmers.