Lag effect means no quick fix

08/01/2018

A Fish and Game poll shows New Zealanders want more action on water quality:

Pollution of our rivers and lakes is one of New Zealanders’ top two concerns, according to public opinion poll results.
The findings are contained in a Colmar Brunton poll of a thousand people conducted for Fish & Game New Zealand.

The survey asked people how concerned they were about a range of issues, including the cost of living, health system, child poverty and water pollution.

Three quarters – 75 percent – of those surveyed said they were extremely or very concerned about pollution of lakes and rivers. Only five percent said they were not that concerned.

The only issue people were more worried about was the cost of living, with 77 percent saying they were extremely or very concerned. . . 

Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor says the Colmar Brunton findings show how worried the public is about water pollution.

“These results are consistent with what we saw in the election and show the depth of feeling kiwis have about the loss of what they considered their birth right – clean rivers, lakes and streams,” Martin Taylor says.

“It highlights the urgency with which the government needs to make substantial changes to address the problem,” Mr Taylor says.

“People are fed up by pollution – particular by intensive corporate dairying – which has robbed them of their ability to swim in their favourite rivers and lakes. . .

My favourite lake is Wanaka where there have been no problems for swimmers this summer.

My favourite rivers are the Kakanui and Waitaki, both of which are in dairying areas. There have been no problems in the Waitaki and the high E. coli in a stretch of the Kakanui is caused by seagulls.

Fonterra and Dairy NZ should take note of these results. They show the tens of millions of dollars they’ve spent on slick PR to try and change people’s minds isn’t working,” he says.

Martin Taylor says the state of our polluted waterways is hurting New Zealand’s international image.

Does he not see the irony of saying this in a media release high on emotion and selective in its facts?

“Our clean, green reputation gives us a valuable international marketing advantage, but we have been squandering it.

“Losing our clean, green image means less tourism earnings and lower prices for our sheep and beef exports and other agriculture products. Why should all New Zealand farmers miss out on good returns because of dirty dairying?” he says.

Why should a whole industry be pilloried because of mistakes made in the past? This statement ignores all the work and the money which are being put into remedying those mistakes and ensuring current practices protect and enhance waterways.

Martin Taylor says fixing the problem is not going to be easy.

“This is a major challenge to put right. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse corporate dairy farming’s environmental impact,” he says. . . 

Once again Fish & Game picks on dairying without mentioning the fouling of waterways by water fowl,  didymo which was introduced to New Zealand by fishers, pollution caused by tourists and trampers who urinate and defecate in or near waterways; and the problem of urban water pollution.

There is no dairying near Christchurch’s Avon River which is very polluted nor is there any near Takapuna Beach which was closed to swimmers last week.

The media release also ignores the lag effect which is examined in ‘Lag-effect’ politics and the politicisation of New Zealand farmers: Where to from here?, by Ronlyn Duncan of Lincoln University:

. . In terms of nitrates, the present state of water quality reflects what has occurred in the past and depending on biophysical, geological and management factors, movement into waterways can take decades. Often referred to as the ‘lag-effect’, this means it can take some time before the effects of land use intensification make their way through the groundwater system (Howard-Williams et al., 2010; LAWF, 2010, 2012; PCE, 2012; Sanford and Pope, 2013). Importantly, the same delay applies to improvements in water quality due to better farm practices and the implementation of stricter rules and regulations. Hence, the issue of concern in this paper is that the lag-effect can have potentially unforeseen social and political consequences. . . 

Those social and political consequences include the pillorying of farmers and farming by groups like Fish & Game using selective facts and lots of emotion.

The degradation of water quality is complex.

A lot of the practices doing the damage in urban waterways is still occurring. This could be fixed very quickly if there was the political will to spend the money necessary to deal with waste water and sewerage.

Most of the degradation of rural waterways occurred over a long period of time and in spite of considerable improvements in current farming practices, millions of dollars spent and a lot of on-going work, will take a long time to reverse.


%d bloggers like this: