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Labour’s “About Face” on Rivers Sad for Environment

Labour’s “About Face” on Rivers Sad for Environment

A national trout fishing organisation says the Labour Party’s reversal of its policy on charging commercial users for use of freshwater is a retrograde 180 degree turn around and therefore disappointing.

Graham Carter, president of the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers said the backdown by Labour was a sad day for the public’s rivers which in some cases had died while others were in death throes due to water depletion and nitrate contamination. He cited Canterbury’s rivers such as the Irwell and Selwyn, both once prolific trout rivers now virtual dry river beds, as prime examples.

Labour recently reversed its 2014 election policy to charge a resource rental on farmers who use water for irrigation and discharge too many nutrients. Andrew Little Labour Party leader speaking to the recent annual conference of NZ Federated Farmers, said while there were "real environmental limits to growth", the party would discard the resource rental policy. Prior to the 2014 election, Labour said a resource rental was the best tool for making sure freshwater was used efficiently.

“Labour’s suicidal approach to the water crisis issue is infuriating,” said Graham Carter. “Maybe they are so concerned with their polling they want to buy farmers votes?”

Funds being currently used to encourage further degradation of water resources through subsidised irrigation schemes should be immediately used for restoration.
“There is no point in attempting to restore if pollution is allowed to continue. Yet Andrew Little acknowledges that water quality is a serious issue for the country.”

Federated Farmers recently released an election manifesto in which was advocated a “targeted catchment approach”. Andrew Little said he had a natural "if it ain't broke why try to fix it" attitude to issues and would practise that if government.

“Well Labour needs to realise the water resource is broke and leaking badly,” said Graham Carter.

Farming was supposed to be driven by the twin pillars of science and sustainability, but under government approach of growth and more growth, it abandoned ecological sense and science to be environmentally unsustainable.

“The reality is, irrigation and dairying growth is economically and politically driven,” he said. “Government’s dictatorial takeover of the democratically elected Environment Canterbury Council was simply to streamline water consents for corporate dairy farmers.”
Dairy farming in low rainfall areas such as Canterbury and the Mackenzie Basin was environmentally irresponsible.

Graham Carter said Labour's now-abandoned policy was an excellent one. “It did not just target dairying - it would have been paid by all commercial water users. If you are serious about transforming the NZ economy away from highly-polluting industries, it's hard to think of a better policy than to charge for water use and pollution. In nearly every other industry in NZ polluter pays, why should farming be any different?”

He said it was important in any commercial charges that water allocations were not transferable and tradable.

“Otherwise as has happened with the quota management system on sea fisheries, rights are bought out by the fat cat corporates who end up monopolising the resource.”

Referring to water exporters getting the resource for free, he said this was “just plain dumb” by government.

“Water is a public resource, not up for grabs, not for wheeling and dealing and certainly not for giving away to exploiters to export for private profit,” said Graham Carter.


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