Farming leaders in Canterbury hope a spate of vandalism was not motivated by radical environmentalists.
On Friday night, October 20, a valve was opened on a vat allowing about 6000 litres of milk to escape on a Leeston dairy farm and the same night 30 tyres on four irrigators on a Hororata farm, an hour’s drive away, were punctured by a battery-powered drill.
The dairy farmer whose vat was opened was Environment Canterbury councillor John Sunckell who said he was at a loss whether it was a burglar frustrated at not getting access to anything valuable or an environmentalist wanting to make a statement.
“I don’t want to draw a conclusion but it is hard not to,” he said, referring to the irrigator tyre slashing incident on the same night.
Sunckell said police asked him if it could have been a disgruntled employee but he did not think so.
In recent months Greenpeace activists had illegally occupied the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme, other environmental groups had openly pursued an agenda opposing irrigation and surveys in Christchurch had shown opposition to farming and irrigation.
Sunckell said he was talking publicly about the incident because the vandalism was reflective of a growing split in the community.
“We have got to get away from this urban-rural divide but I don’t know how we are going to do it.”
The volume of milk exceeded the capacity of the drainage and wetland filtering and containment system and the milk overflowed into a drain then a waterway.
So the vandalism caused pollution.
North Canterbury Federated Farmers dairy section chairman Michael Woodward hoped the two incidents were not motivated by anti-farming sentiment.
“It is hard to know if it is coincidental or the same people.”
If it was environmentalists, it was counterproductive given the tyres would be dumped and the milk ended up in a waterway, both damaging to the environment.
Irrigation was a contentious issue in Canterbury and Woodward said he would be disappointed if activists chose to vandalise private property to promote their cause instead of talking to farmers.
The federation’s provincial president Lynda Murchison was also reluctant to speculate on a motive but said if it was environmentalists she was saddened and fearful that people misinformed about water quality issues and the role of irrigation would resort to those tactics.
“Angry people damaging property never got anyone anywhere.” . .
Whether or not the vandals were environmental activists they’ve not only broken the law they’ve added to pollution and waste.