Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Ruined Rivers A National Disgrace

The recently published article showing 65 percent of our rivers are “unswimmable” in a country of just 5 million people, should remind government that that the continuing state of New Zealand’s rivers is a national calamity.

It is a disgraceful, shameful reflection on the failure of successive governments to remedy a water crisis that has been worsening over decades.

The report stated that the criteria used "looks only at bacteria levels.” Even there, we have one of the highest rates of zoonoses in the developed world. A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has passed from an animal to humans. Such pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment. They represent a major public health problem around the world due to humans’ close relationship with animals in agriculture, exacerbated by large, concentrated populations.

New Zealand’s water crisis goes far deeper. We also have one of the highest rates of sediment runoff, which smothers all life in a waterway. Sediment runoff is accelerated by land uses such as intensive agriculture and forestry clear felling, the latter immediately exposing the bare soil to subsequent rain.

But even in clear water, contamination may be present. Clear water can contain high nitrate levels from dairying runoff, which is cannot be controlled by riparian planting on margins. When concentrated further by low flows from irrigation draw-offs and warmed by shade removal, the inevitable result is toxic algal blooms – and unswimmable rivers. Another unseen effect of algal blooms is that during the day they actually produce oxygen, but at night the reverse occurs, and they suck oxygen out of the water, creating hypoxic dead zones.

The alarming aspect to governments failure is that some administrations have gone beyond doing nothing to aggravating the crisis by encouraging degrading land uses. For example, the National government of 2008 -17, took deliberate steps to accelerate the practice of intensive dairying into dry, low rainfall environments on inappropriate soils such as the Mackenzie basin and Canterbury Plains, made possible only by draining rivers and aquifers for irrigation.

The then government led by PM John Key and with a student Minister for the Environment Nick Smith sacked a democratically elected council in Environment Canterbury (ECan) and replaced it with its own hand-picked commissioners, to speed up approvals for dairying development, largely by corporate interests. It was an affront to democracy and the environment - and human health. The consequences have been catastrophic.

The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers has measured nitrate levels over recent years and the levels are alarming - toxic to trout, salmon smolt and native fish and also well above safe human health levels. A 2019 Danish study of 2.7 million people reported a strong link between nitrate in drinking water and the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer. This finding has important implications for public health as New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world.

This is a time for action, not "paralysis by committees” as government both central and local seem to deflect criticism. Even the latest “assurance” by agriculture minister Damien O’Connor of government now “tweaking” freshwater requirements has a whiff of inappropriate compromise, and “stonewalling because of past inaction.

The cleanup needs to be started immediately and be science based. Government needs to act on the advice its own scientists have already given them, as it has so successfully in other areas.

How woeful that countries like China have more stringent water standards than New Zealand.

How pathetic that both national and regional government have been able to kick this can down the road for future generations to have to deal with.

The NZ public deserves and expects better.

Ken Sims is a retired micro-biologist, a lifelong fisherman and student of rivers. Life member NZ Federation Freshwater Anglers.

The article referred to was in the “Star Sunday Tines” written by Denise Piper (Dec 6, headlined “Over 60% of Rivers Unswimmable”)

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Demise Of The Tokyo Olympics

As the Covid vaccines roll out around the world, the Tokyo Olympics are looming as a major test of when (and whether) something akin to global normality can return – to international travel, to global tourism, to professional sport and to mass gatherings of human beings. Currently though, it looks like a forlorn hope that Japan will be able to host the Olympics in late July. Herd immunity on any significant scale seems possible only by December 2021, at the earliest... More>>


Oranga Tamariki: Chief Executive Grainne Moss Steps Down

Controversial Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss has decided to step down. More>>


USA: Prime Minister Congratulates President Joe Biden On His Inauguration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter ... More>>


New Zealand Government: Cook Islanders To Resume Travel To New Zealand

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such ... More>>


A New Year: No politicians at Rātana in 2021

Annual celebrations at Rātana pā will be different this year, amid a decision to hold an internal hui for church adherents only… More>>


Government: New Public Housing Plan Announced

RT HON JACINDA ARDERN HON DR MEGAN WOODS The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government ... More>>

Government: Pre-Departure Testing Extended To All Passengers To New Zealand

To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. More>>


Covid: Border Exception for 1000 International Students

The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began....More>>





InfoPages News Channels