Do you hear the people . . .

Protests by the usual suspects on the left aren’t unusual.

It takes a lot more than the usual disgruntlements to get other people on to the streets in any number which makes yesterday’s Don’t Damn the Dam rally a serious sign of popular support.

RivettingKate Taylor recorded the rally in words and photos:

CHB people gathered in Waipukurau in their droves this morning to support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. The dam.

I was going to say hundreds of people lined the streets, but I really have no way of quantifying how many people were there. Watch the news tonight – they might tell you. Suffice to say, in Kate terms, there were lots and lots.

Farmers, bankers, fertiliser reps, spreader drivers and two former regional councillors Ewan McGregor and Kevin Rose, who are probably secretly glad the decision is not up to them anymore.

There were tractors, utes, motorbikes, stock trucks and a few huntaways. . .

After clogging up the state highway system for a wee while, the vehicle possession (bigger than the annual Christmas parade but no Santa!!) parked up and the “green space” on “post office corner” was filled with claps and cheers for Mr Streeter and Mr Heaton, HB Federated Farmers president Will Foley and local fifth-generation farmer (and CHBDC district councillor) Andrew Watts. We also heard from someone from Timaru who had seen the growth in South Canterbury from the Opuha dam and resulting irrigation systems. . . .

I think the someone from Timaru was Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston.

Feds is firmly behind the project, but Hawkes Bay provincial president Will Foley is concerned about nutrient limits:

Last month, Massey’s Dr Mike Joy told a Canterbury audience, “The nitrate toxicity in some waterways is 10 times the safe level already. We have gone from safe levels of 1.9 millilitres a litre, to 3.8ml/l in Canterbury.”

With the Tukituki Board of Inquiry proposing a limit of 0.8 milligrams per litre for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, it would seem contradictory, but its draft decision is about a very different limit – what it believes is good for ecosystem health.  And on the nitrate toxicity score, the draft National Objectives Framework has set 6.9ml/l as the bottomline and the Tukituki is not even remotely close. 

So let’s park Dr Joy and focus on what we all want to achieve for the Tukituki. 

That means remembering why we started out in the first place.  It was to tackle an algae that’s been with us forever called Periphyton.  Everyone agrees it’s a problem so what’s the solution?

We get Periphyton because the Tukituki is a rocky river running warm during summer low flows.  Its growth is exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus so Hawke’s Bay Regional Council came up with a three-pronged approach hitting phosphorus, managing nitrogen and increasing water flows. 

In all the debate since, this environmental solution with strong economic benefits has been parked out of sight.

You can only increase water flow during summer by storing rainwater and that’s where Ruataniwha comes in.  This extra water helps to cool the Tukituki during summer while flushing it of Periphyton.  That’s been the experience of South Canterbury’s Opuha scheme on a similar river. 

We’ve had a similar improvement in the Waiareka Creek from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme.

It used to be little more than a series of stagnant ponds. Now with guaranteed minimum flows from irrigation water it runs clean and wildlife has re-established.

Another experience is the economic boon Opuha has been to South Canterbury.

Yet during the Board of Inquiry, Dr Joy’s colleague Dr Death, helped to shift the focus off Periphyton and towards the stream life of rivers using a model developed for the Manawatu; a very different river to our Tukituki. Arguably, that’s how a limit of 0.8mg/l entered the minds of the Board of Inquiry, but how many invertebrates found in water doesn’t correlate to any one nutrient. 

Ironically, it was Fish and Game’s Corina Jordan who confirmed that while nitrogen and clearly phosphorus have impacts, so does river flow, sediment, light intensity and temperature.  The upshot being that there is no straight line relationship between a limit of 0.8mg/l and invertebrate health. 

Farmers like me are not in denial because Federated Farmers is okay with having a number, but that number must be an indicator and not chiselled into granite.  Especially since that number was derived from a model not validated for the Tukituki River and especially since Dr Death’s use of the Macroinvertebrate Community Index happens to be an indicator itself.

The Hawke’s Bay community needs a solution but the proposed limit of 0.8mg/l is so blunt, it makes Ruataniwha untenable. 

The Port of Napier is right to call Ruataniwha a game changer for the entire Hawke’s Bay region.  Before Ruataniwha’s viability was compromised we were talking about a quarter of a billion dollar boost each and every year.  If 0.8 remains as a hard limit, it not only kills the dam but means the region going forward will become $50 million poorer each year.  

Unless 0.8 becomes an indicator it will seriously compromise all the farming we currently have.  We’re not just talking sheep and beef but the guys who grow crops, the guys who run orchards, those who milk and even the guys who grow the grapes our region is famous for.

A hard limit of 0.8 means no Ruataniwha leaving us with Periphyton, a worsening economy and increasingly, rivers suffering from ever lower and warmer flows due to drought.  If farms convert to forestry we can possibly add sediment to that list.  Can anyone tell me what the environmental or community upside is? 

Dr Doug Edmeades wrote recently, “the best pieces of advice I was given as a young scientist: ‘Edmeades, I do not give a damn for your opinion what are the facts.”  Opinion seems the basis for 0.8mg/l but it is fact that it’s 14 times more stringent than the international standard for drinking water.  Don’t damn our dam.

Water storage and the irrigation it enables can improve both water quantity and quality.

It provides recreational opportunities and a significant economic boost. Farmers will make the biggest investment and take the biggest risk but as the people rallying yesterday obviously realise the benefits will flow right through the community in more jobs and more business opportunities with the economic and social boost that will bring.

The people of Hawkes Bay spoke through their support for the rally yesterday.

The Regional Council will show whether or not it heard them when it makes it decision on supporting the project, or not.

24 Responses to Do you hear the people . . .

  1. Supporting protesters, Ele?

    That puts you on the other side of the ledger, doesn’t it.


  2. But you forgot to slight them by calling them “hippies” and question their personal grooming habits. Also, what happened to the always-useful smear, “rent-a-crowd”?
    Come on, Ele – you know how to demean protesters!
    You’ve done it many times before.


  3. I see they had an ‘ring-in’ rabble-rouser from outside of the area – John Minto? No, flown up from Timaru to whip up the crowd – William Rolleston from the union, the farmer’s union.


  4. Jabba and Mr E will be here shortly to denounce these trouble-making protesters!


  5. RBG says:

    Homepaddock expects protests from farmers to be taken more seriously than other protests. Double standard.

    These people went out onto the streets because this dam is about them increasing their personal wealth. The right don’t usually have to protest about that because the National government focuses on increasing the personal wealth of the already wealthy.Hence public displays like this are not usually needed.

    “the usual disgruntlements”
    • Mining in National parks
    • Selling publically owned assets to National’s rich mates
    • Spying on the citizens of this country
    • Trade agreements that will result , for example, in future governments being sued for legislating against tobacco
    • Drilling for more fossil fuels when climate change threatens the future of children.

    The right only protest when it’s about THEIR MONEY MAKING OPPORTUNITIES. Not news!


  6. jabba says:

    I assume you are listening to John Hanlon singing Dam the Dam while reading this story Mr Guyton .. ahhhhhhhh.
    Oh well, off for a bike ride


  7. Roger Barton says:

    In the formative stages of the Wairarapa looking at options for irrigation there was much soul searching and. Investigative work done on options for storage and the wider benefits to the region and community included looking at other projects including the Opuha dam and work in that wider region. Where we farm is close to the ranges and reasonably summer safe but for our very stoner soil profile. The more recent work excludes our place for any irrigation due to geographical factors.
    However one of the very revealing bits of the analysis was that 70 percent of the benefit went to the wider community/region NOT the landholders.
    Therefore this insistence by some that all this work is for the benefit/profit of a few is erroneous even if the so called benefit was markedly discounted.


  8. Andrei says:

    These people went out onto the streets because this dam is about them increasing their personal wealth

    No this is something that will benefit the whole community – farmers are members of the productive class people who generate wealth that benefits us all.


  9. robertguyton says:

    Those placards – they’ve been printed en masse, they’re not the heart-felt expressions of individuals…oh, hang on, I see…


  10. robertguyton says:

    “70% of the benefit…” that’s right, Roger.


  11. robertguyton says:

    “Damn”, jabba (please – a little care is all it takes).


  12. robertguyton says:

    Were there Ngai Tahu among the protesters?


  13. Bingo Bob says:

    RG would it be Green Party policy to now get rid of the Opuha dam? A la naturale is better don’t you think?


  14. Gravedodger says:

    What a sad narrow minded response from the advocates for tents in regenerating scrub mob.

    Any opposer of water harvesting, summer flow augmentation, irrigation promoting schemes who has not made a serious effort to understand what was achieved with the Opua is being disingenuous.

    As a recreational fisherman I have every support for preventing pollution and improving water and waterway conditions.
    That said I have an equal passion for maintaining living standards and lifestyle options for all and in this Island nation Irrigation is an essential plank of the structure.

    Take a slow drive around the now so much expanded “Waipara Valley”.
    Some funding from compulsory acquired levies and a significant farmer input requirement, forced us to abandon ship from an already deeply indebted situation, has turned a small rainfall constrained area of vulnerable farming operations made up of very small holdings into a spectacular world renowned Wine district.

    Yes nutrient release and threats to waterways are potential but totally manageable.
    To conflate a spontaneous show of local support with the mindless rabble opposing an Israeli Tennis player is a revealing moment of the lack of intellectual effort by the usual suspects.

    I accept the historical taxpayer/ratepayer funding of such developments is seen by tall poppychoppers as unfair but those of such persuasion would have been in the vanguard of such social engineering schemes albeit very inefficient and wasteful as it was, the RDR in earlier times. That blunt instrument resource is making massive strides through more efficient and targeted application rates and delivery systems.

    Sort of measurable progress really.

    I am quite familiar with what the Opus effort has produced for every person within its orbit and it is impressive


  15. RBG says:

    The gap between rich and poor in this country has widened while dairy farmers reap big profits and pollute the rivers.


  16. robertguyton says:

    Bingo – don’t know. I don’t speak for them.
    One placard read, “Science over emotion” and I wondered if that person was at the right protest, given that the science has come out against the dam and the resulting agricultural intensification.
    Economically, the major backers gave it the thumbs-down as well.
    Emotion-fuelled protesters ignoring science and economics – poor show – and a union behind it all! That farmers union – rabble-rousers!


  17. Roger Barton says:

    RG you appear dismissive about the 70 percent figure, or else you were creating a pun over irrigation and the trickle down commentary?
    We will go with both. In any first stage of irrigation development most if not all the early stage benefits go to those supporting the activity in establishing the system. Earth moving, pumping/piping specialists and electricians and their various suppliers. If the on farm work is fully funded by land owners then this will largely be done out of borrowings. The short term gain is then substantially in the community.
    I find it frustrating that you can’t express an opinion re Opuha. Is it a positive or negative and should it be released? Be brave and commit to an opinion RG!


  18. “Be brave and commit to an opinion RG!”
    Mind if I print that off and pin it on my wall, Roger?
    Offering my opinions is not something Homepaddock readers urge me to do. Quite the opposite in fact.
    ‘Trickle-down’ is the process championed by the advantaged to fool the disadvantaged into allowing the former to do what they want for their own personal gain, often using money drawn from the disadvantaged through tax.


  19. Gravedodger claims “a spontaneous show of local support” but misses the note from Ele about the involvement of the farmers’ union and the presence of the Man from Timaru, who presumably just “happened” to be there.
    Aye, Dodge.


  20. “Surging Canterbury floodwater tore away a third of the massive Opuha dam near Fairlie early yesterday, sending a violent wall of water towards the sea.

    The dam section tumbled soon after 1am after heavy machines had been brought in to dig a channel to release floodwater build-up behind the unfinished wall of compacted gravel.

    Diggers began clearing a channel about 9pm on Wednesday after it was clear that four days of heavy rain could not be contained in the lake behind the dam.

    Muddy water roared through the channel and through a pipe beneath the dam, draining at 50 cubic metres a second, but the structure began to crumble and the huge volume of water in the lake cannoned forward.

    The collapse let the water hurtle into the Opuha system, and then, near Raincliff, into the already high Opihi River.

    Civil Defence officials declared a state of emergency at 3.15am yesterday and about 200 residents of the riverside settlements of Stratheona and Butlers Crossing, near Pleasant Point, were evacuated.”

    Roger – just exploring the history of the Opuhu dam before I comment.


  21. “The dam has had positive and negative environmental impacts. Anecdotal evidence suggests the trout fishery was initially greatly improved, but this has dropped off with the development of algal problems over the last couple of years. Greater flows have resulted in fewer river mouth closures, with benefits for water quality and the salmon fishery. The salmon fishery in particular has been very good in recent years. The lake itself has provided recreational and hunting opportunities, but has not established itself as a successful wild fishery. Soil fertility indicators suggest higher fertility but also higher intensity of land use and application of N fertiliser. To date there is no evidence that this is adversely affecting water quality.”

    Therein, I believe, lies the great concern held around the development that attracted the Ruataniwha union/protesters.
    Are you dismissing the findings, Roger? Chucking out the science in favour of emotion? And why was Rolleston there?


  22. Gravedodger says:

    Perhaps Robert a reasoned analysis of the Ngai Tahu conversion of a large area of the ex Balmorel Forest on very porous soils on the north bank of the Hurunui to intensive dairying and dairy support, that threaten all attempts to mitigate Nitrogen and nutrient targets in the Amuri basin.
    Or are Maori exempt and too politically sacred to challenge.
    Just clearing the trees should have had any environmentally charged activist blocking roads as that strip created a reasonable barrier to transfer of such nutrients and chemicals from accessing the Hurunui.


  23. Sophia_Duckor:
    “Hundreds blocked Tauranga’s Devonport street protesting against the decision to allow oil exploration in marine sanctuary home to rare Maui”

    Covering this one, Ele?
    Do you hear the people???


  24. Gravedodger – I’ve pressed those involved over this since I first became aware of their plans, in private and in the chamber of Environment Southland. I remain unconvinced and unhappy with the plans. No, so far as I’m concerned Maori are not “exempt and too politically sacred to challenge.”


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