Who Can Waste $80,000,000 And Not Have To Answer For That Wastage?
The answer is the Waikato Regional Council and the Waikato Regional ratepayers.
Together they have spent approximately four years working on the development of Plan Change 1 and going through all of the processes up to the stage of receiving the report from the Hearings Commissioners.
The Council have spent their share as a result of the regulatory requirement to review their regional plan, and the ratepayers have been forced to spend their share to try to achieve a workable, fit for purpose, solution to the water quality issues as opposed to the Proposed Plan Change 1.
This PC1 process was supposed be delivering a Management Plan for the Waikato and Waipa River catchments that would over the next eighty years, return the water quality in those rivers back to what it was in 1862.
Unfortunately in my opinion that whole process has been a huge waste of time money and effort!!!!
Why do I say that there has been such a phenomenal waste?
The waste has come about, in my opinion, due to the processes and outcomes from PC1.
We know that the WRC have spent approximately thirty million dollars over the past few years and we estimate that all of the submitters would have spent at least that amount and then there are the costs of the hearings and any appeals to be taken into account.
And the outcomes will not achieve the desired result.
Why do I say that it will fail to achieve the desired results?
Because without the eradication of Koi Carp we will never achieve the desired outcomes in relation to water quality in any waterways that are infested with Koi Carp.
Taken from the current position, if we eliminated man’s impacts on the rivers completely (i.e. removed every man made discharge into those river catchments), the Koi Carp will still breed and expand in numbers to the point where the waterways will become so sediment laden that there will be no other flora or fauna surviving in the waterways due to the depredations of the Koi Carp.
Koi Carp are thought to have been accidentally released into the river systems through flooding of ornamental ponds sometime around the early 1980’s. Their legal designation is that they are a Noxious Species and an Unwanted Organism as listed on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website.
Koi carp are widespread in Auckland and Waikato. They are spreading into Northland and they have been found in isolated places in Whanganui, Hawke's Bay and Wellington.
Koi Carp have no natural predators in the New Zealand environment and when this fact is coupled with a breeding success rate of approximately 99% this shows why they have been able to multiply and spread across the regions so rapidly.
Waikato koi rarely exceed 9 years of age. Females average 5.2 years and males 4.6 years of age. An average fish weighs 3 kg. Females produce 100 000 eggs per kg of body weight. A typical female can produce 300 000 eggs annually (or more if they spawn more than once). Koi carp spawn throughout the summer. As they gather for spawning or feeding in the shallow margins of the river, koi biomass can reach 4000 kg/ha.
Koi carp breed prolifically with a single fish laying between 800,000 to 1 million eggs.
Once established in an area they have a huge and significant impact on rivers and ponds. They destabilize river and pond banks and destroy habitat for native fish and waterfowl. The effect on the water quality is dramatic as they disturb the bottom of streams and ponds as they grub through bottom sediments and uproot plants, significantly increasing water turbidity.
The koi is an opportunistic feeder, eating insects, juvenile fish of other species, a diverse range of plants and organic matter. Once introduced they quickly become the dominant fish in water bodies.
When they feed they stir up the bottom of ponds, lakes and rivers, muddying the water and destroying native plant and fish habitat. Koi carp are opportunistic omnivores, which means they eat a wide range of food, including insects, fish eggs, juvenile fish of other species and a diverse range of plants and other organic matter.
They feed like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up everything and blowing out what isn’t wanted. Aquatic plants are dislodged in the process and are unlikely to re-establish. Koi carp cause habitat loss for plants, native fish, invertebrates and waterfowl.
The WRC know about the Koi Carp and the effects they have on water quality, yet they are completely ignored in PC1.
The WRC has over the years funded a huge amount of research into the effects of Koi Carp on the waterways and there are many published reports showing the detrimental effects which makes it very hard to believe that they don’t know how bad they are in relation to water quality.
PC1 includes the following section regards Koi Carp and Canada Geese:
184.108.40.206 Koi carp and Canada geese/ Te kāpa koi me te kuihi
Waikato Regional Council will:
a. Continue to work with, provide support to, and strongly encourage the relevant agencies (such as Department of Conservation, Fish & Game and the Ministry for Primary Industries), as well as the community and landowners, to take a coordinated approach to the management, surveillance, control and eradication, of pest species including: Koi carp, brown bullhead catfish, gambusia, rudd and tench; and any new pest species; and to control, as far as practicable, advisory animals including Canada geese. In the context of Chapter 3.11 a focus should be placed on the management and control of Koi carp and Canada geese; and
b. Through the implementation of the Regional Pest Management Plan (which describes why and how various plant and animal pests and advisory plants and animals will be controlled in the Waikato region), set out the priorities for pest fish management and advisory animals in the Region, and ensure that adequate funding is allocated for this function via the Waikato Regional Council’s Long Term Plan.
The WRC has decided as a result of budgetary constraints, to cut $143,000 from its freshwater biosecurity funding.
That included pest fish projects it supports in partnership with the Department of Conservation, including its maintenance of a koi carp trap and digester on the shores of Lake Waikare, north of Huntly.
That digester was built in 2012 and over four years the Koi Carp trap has removed about 35 tonnes of carp from the lake which the digester has turned into fertiliser pellets.
This cut to the funding seems to signal that the WRC is walking away from its share of the plan to clean up the waterways but they are still requiring the land users in the Lake Waikare/Whangamarino sub-catchment to apply for a Restricted Discretionary Consent to carry on farming their properties. The costs of meeting these consent requirements under the new NPS on Water Management will be substantial yet will not achieve the desired results due to the effects of the Koi Carp.
They will require these consents even in cases where the land users are suffering severe financial constraints on their ability to carry out what has been their lawful farming business up until now.
Seems there are very different criteria to be followed if you are a land user as opposed to being the Regional Council.
Land users are going to go out of business trying to comply with these draconian rule changes when they know full well that if the Regional Council doesn’t begin to address the problems of Koi Carp then their sacrifices will mean nothing, as nothing will improve.
Individual farmers have costed the requirements for Farm Environment Plans at up to $14,000 to prepare and there will be ongoing costs related to monitoring and reporting.
There are now requirements for a setback of fences from all waterways of 5metres and I have been given evidence of farmers losing up to 10% of their land from production due to these requirements.
What happens when the Koi Carp erode the banks of the waterways markedly as is currently happening, are they then going to be required to shift their fences further into their property to allow for the setback to be maintained and lose further production area?
When does it stop?
When they go bankrupt?
The Regional Council staff and councillors are not penalised in any way by their refusal to address the problem of Koi Carp, they just carry on drawing their remuneration as per usual.
We are currently staring down the barrel of a severe economic depression due to the world wide effects of the Coronavirus which has already decimated our country’s Income earning potential through its effects on the tourism sector, the international student market etc.
And now we have the rural industries of the Waikato being severely impacted by these new requirements even though the WRC and others are ignoring one of the most important causes due to their budgetary constraints.
Sounds Fair – Yeah Right!!!!
It was stated that we would expect to see the replacement of 68% of our beef and lamb exports and 13% of our dairy exports (as modelled by the Regional Sector Water Subgroup, and quoted by the Chair of that group & Chief Executive of Waikato Regional Council Vaughan Payne) with speculative, largely foreign owned, carbon farming, given the current fixation with the billion trees program.
This will result not only in the loss of these farming operations but will also result in creation of more rural ghost towns due to the flow on effects from the reduction in rural employment.
Much reduced rural employment means much reduced numbers of residents in the rural towns and therefore no doctors, no pharmacies, no supermarkets, no farm supply stores, no banks, no volunteer firefighters etc., the list goes on and we end up with rural ghost towns because there is not enough population in the small rural towns to support these occupations.
Once the employment goes and the population reduces it becomes like a self-fulfilling spiral into oblivion as the numbers of population fall below the levels that can sustain businesses in the towns.
Given that we are facing severe economic hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, if you extrapolate this predicted loss of farming operations across the whole country, due to the new national rules being currently introduced, we are going to be facing a major downturn in our export earnings from agriculture and a lack of any security of food supply internally.
As a result of any major drop in export earnings we will also suffer a much reduced tax income for the country which also adds to the downward spiralling effect on our national economy.
Less income = less tax paid = less money to finance public infrastructure spending = less employment in infrastructure building and maintenance & less money to finance public welfare benefits = more people in severe distress = more homelessness etc. It just keeps getting worse.
The farming community knows that we have to protect our water quality and have already been rising to the challenge and taking actions to improve water quality across the country but they still need help in the Waikato Region due to the effects of the Koi Carp and they are not getting any assistance from their Regional Council.
Yes we know we can make more improvements to the water quality across the region but this will not happen until we start to eradicate the Koi Carp from our rivers.
PC1 in section 220.127.116.11 states that the WRC should place a focus on the management and control of Koi Carp and Canada Geese. It also states that the WRC should set out the priorities for pest fish management and ensure that adequate funding is allocated for this function.
Currently the WRC has no strategy in their long term plan for the management or eradication of Koi Carp and given the decision to cut the funding for the digester operation it seems that the priority set by WRC in relation to Koi Carp is very low.
It may seem like I am banging on about something that is just one small issue in the whole debate over the water quality and that may be true. The problem is that the one small issue that I am banging on about (Koi Carp) actually is a very big issue that has the potential to have hugely detrimental effects on both water quality and our national economy.
Taking all of the above into account the WRC should be taking action immediately to comply with their own proposed plan and as stated in section 18.104.22.168:
Continue to work with, provide support to, and strongly encourage the relevant agencies (such as Department of Conservation, Fish & Game and the Ministry for Primary Industries), as well as the community and landowners, to take a coordinated approach to the management, surveillance, control and eradication, of pest species including: Koi carp, brown bullhead catfish, gambusia, rudd and tench; and any new pest species; and to control, as far as practicable, advisory animals including Canada geese.
Our challenge to WRC, DOC, Fish & Game and the Ministry for Primary Industries is to step up to the mark, put a coordinated Plan in place, take real action and achieve results.
Primary Land Users Group