What about the birds?

14/07/2014

The Green Party aims to have every river clean enough to swim in.

What will they do about the birds?

Up until recently, ORC staff and local farmers alike have been baffled as to what has been responsible for high concentrations of E.coli occurring at Clifton Falls on the upper Kakanui River, particularly during summer.

ORC staff have been concerned about the bacteria, as high levels have the potential to cause illness in recreational bathers.

ORC enlisted the help of local farmers, who provided access to their properties and the nearby river for close inspection. When still no source of bacteria was found, a helicopter was sent into the gorge to gain an aerial perspective of the problem.

The source – a large colony of nesting gulls – was found in rugged terrain, about 5 km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

Water quality samples were taken immediately above and below the colony, with widely divergent results Upstream of the colony, the bacteria concentrations were 214 E.coli/100ml, whereas immediately downstream, the concentration was far greater at 1300 E.coli/100ml .

ORC manager of resource science Matt Hickey said that according to Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas, those with less than 260 E.coli/100m should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml could pose a health-risk.

Mr Hickey said six colonies of gulls were found in total, on steep rocky faces, where they clearly favoured the habitat for nesting. . .

But they can’t be removed because some are protected.

Council resource science manager Matt Hickey said an aerial inspection of the site had revealed that the colony contained at least one species of protected gull, and that meant the council could not act to remove the nesting birds.

”There are three species of gulls, and two of them are protected. . . .

This is not the only river to be polluted by birds and of course they are not always to blame.

And like a lot of other Green policies while this one looks fine on the surface, it’s impractical when you look deeper.

Some waterways, like the Waiareka Creek near us for example, have never been swimmable.

It used to be a series of near stagnant ponds most of the year. Now, thanks to guaranteed minimum flows with irrigation it’s running clean and clear and waterlife has established again, but it’s not deep enough to swim in.

The causes of water pollution are many – some are natural, some the result of people’s activity.

Some waterways will be able to be cleaned up relatively easily – and this is already being done.

It will take a longer time and a lot of money to get others cleaner and getting up to swimmable standard for some waterways will be impractical.

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the Greens announcement today is just the latest step in their anti-jobs, anti-growth, stop everything manifesto.

“Improving the quality of our freshwater is important to us all but the Greens approach is costly and impractical.  Approaching improvement through blanket bans and requirements for every drainage ditch across New Zealand to be maintained at a swimming pool standard just shows that the Greens have once again confirmed they are the anti-growth Party, by pursuing polices that would hurt households and damage the creation of new jobs across regional New Zealand for little real gain,” Ms Adams says.

“The Greens need to explain where they will find the billions of dollars of costs and lost revenue it could take to make every single centimetre of New Zealand’s 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams suitable for swimming. They clearly haven’t thought through the consequences.  Once more we see that they are happy to spend the taxes generated by productive New Zealand but they take every opportunity to impose more costs on households and the businesses who are at the heart of our economy.

“And Russel Norman is once again attempting to mislead New Zealanders by comparing the nitrogen settings in the new National Freshwater Standards to the Yangtze river in China.  While the Yangtze is indeed a highly polluted river, nitrogen is not the problem there. Dr Norman knows this, or at least he should, but continues to try and twist the reality in support of his own agenda.

 “The Government’s approach to raising freshwater standards is much more pragmatic. Our clear, robust national standards for rivers and lakes will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

“Our approach will ensure that for the first time New Zealand’s rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

 “The Government will let communities make the call about whether particular rivers and lakes should be suitable for swimming all the time, rather than be dictated to by politicians in Wellington.

“In addition, New Zealand already has a system for protecting our most valuable waterways – water conservation orders. These give the highest level of protection to 15 iconic waterways across New Zealand, and have been described as creating a national park system for water.  What the Greens are actually saying in this policy is they plan to stop New Zealand using one of the more important natural advantages it has.  

“Rather than stopping water use, National’s plan is about ensuring it is used responsibly in a way that provides for the needs of our people now, and into the future.”

The Green party appears to believe that economic growth always can only come at the expense of the environment and only by putting the brakes on growth can the environment be protected and enhanced.

That is not right.

I am proud to head the Bluegreens Caucus and proud to be the Chair of the Local Government & Environment Select Committee

It doesn’t have to be one or the other – we can have both economic growth and environmental protection and enhancement.

Furthermore if we want high environmental standards we need the wealth a growing economy brings to pay for them.


ORC Backs Dunedin Stadium

11/06/2008

The Otago Regional Council has voted 7-4 to back the proposed Awatea St stadium in Dunedin which will replace Carrisbrook.

The decision commits the Otago Regional Council to a contribution of $37.5 million towards the $188 million project. Councillors now have to discuss the details of the funding.

One of the decision will be whether or not to impose a rate for the stadium – and if so how. Rates are never popular and if people are rated on capital values farmers will pay proportionally more because their properties are worth more than the average 1/4 acre urban property.

The stadium concept is attracting vocal opposition, as these projects always do. I was a director of Waitaki District Health Services when the decision was made to build a new hospital in Oamaru, it wasn’t a popular move but people have forgotten that now it’s up and running. 

At the same time there was a proposal to replace the old outdoor swimming pool with a new indoor one. It too attracted heated opposition – now some of the most vehement opponents are among the frequent users.  


Greens get it wrong on dariying

26/05/2008

A fertiliser rep who moved here from Scotland told me the biggest threat to New Zealand exports was the British tabloids. He reckoned just one photo of a cow in a stream could seriously damage the reputation of our farms and consequently our markets.

 

We don’t have to wait for the tabloids to come to us, The Hive  points out the Greens are doing the ground work for them with this press release   on the risk from “dirty dairying”.

“Industrial dairying, or agricultural intensification, is leading to a decline in water quality across the country, as revealed in the suppressed Chapter 13 of the Ministry for the Environment’s State of the Environment report earlier this year,” says Dr. Russel Norman, Green Co-leader.

“If we want to gain an EU eco-label we will need to clean up the effluent and nutrients running into our rivers and lakes leaving them ecologically decayed, not to mention dangerous for our kids to swim in.

“Our economic future is linked to our environmental husbandry. We need to look after the land and the rivers if we expect others to pay a premium for our produce.”

I agree we need to look after our land and rivers but this release doesn’t acknowledge that most of us do. A couple of weeks ago Ag Research held a field day on our property. One of the speakers was Otago Regional Council Land Resources Officer Susie McKeague who said that North Otago generally did not have a problem with water pollution.

 

Among the reasons for this were the environmental farm plans which are mandatory for anyone taking water from the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC).  In a first for NZ the plans were a condition of the resource consent for the scheme. The plans ensure efficient use of water, control of run off, careful dispersal of effluent, fencing of water ways, riparian planting and other measures to protect the soil and water. They are independently monitored each year by the North Otago Sustainable Land Management Groups (NOSLaM)

 

New Zealand isn’t perfect and farmers have a big role to play in protecting our air, soil and water but there is nothing to be gained by ill-informed comments like these:

 

Federated Farmers and much of the Government are still in denial about the declining quality of our natural water bodies. Good farmers doing the right thing are being punished by industrial dairy companies making a fortune trading on our clean and green reputation. But if we don’t force industrial dairy to clean up its act then our clean and green reputation will end up tarnished which will damage all our exports, including tourism.”

 

Federated Farmers are not in denial, and while I can’t speak for all Regional Councils nor are the ORC and Environment Canterbury. Last month the ORC took three dairy farmers to court for breeching the council water plan with effluent discharges.

 

While there is no room for complacency and still room for improvement the Greens are behind the times with this press release. However, if they are genuinely concerned about water quality they could agitate for action on the Tukituki River in Hawkes Bay into which thousands of cubic metres of only partially treated urban sewage is pumped each day.


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