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Urgent action required in response to water quality warnings

Urgent action required in response to water quality warnings, Wellington Fish & Game

Wellington Fish & Game says the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment’s (PCE) report released today serves as a major wake-up call for the Government and Greater Wellington Regional Council currently pursuing a dairy expansion agenda.

“The PCE's Report paints a pretty grim picture for rivers where we swim and fish, if the rate of dairy land intensification continues and there is not a rapid uptake of mitigation measures” says Phil Teal, Wellington Fish & Game manager.

“The report unequivocally proves the adverse impact intensive agricultural, and particularly dairying, has had on our region’s water quality over the couple of decades, and will have in the years to come”, says Mr Teal.

More agricultural nutrients entering waterways means more algal blooms and slime growth, reduced aquatic bug life to provide food for birds and fish, and waterways that aren’t fit for swimming or fishing. In some areas of New Zealand nitrates from intensive agricultural are in such high concentrations they pose a human health risk.

“The issue isn’t so much a 'dirty dairying' issue that involves dumping of cow effluent into the river – it’s about land intensification with increased leaching of nutrients. It’s harder to see that happening, longer lasting, and involves lag times,” says Mr Teal.

“The PCE’s report clearly spells out that we have a massive problem with dairy intensification and an urgent intervention is required. What's needed is the industry groups to stop the 'blame-dodging' and urgently take responsibility for their impact on our lakes and rivers and streams."

Mr Teal points out smarter sustainable farming is a way forward for the Wellington region, noting that there is a growing body of work to show that less intensive dairy systems can be just as profitable, if not more so, than the high intensity model being pushed by the dairy companies.

“This is better for the individual farmers and significantly better for waterway health.”

Greater Wellington Regional Council is presently investigating numerous sites for water storage to further intensify land use in the Wairarapa region, but Mr Teal says they are looking increasingly uncertain both economically and environmentally.

“The PCE’s report now demands a rethink about the environmental implications of such projects,” he says. “Not only has Treasury questioned the economics, there is also a significant financial impact for present and future generations who will have to foot the bill for cleaning up the additional agricultural pollution that will result.

“Many parts of the Wellington region are already stressed by the environmental impacts of intensive agriculture – we simply can’t accept any more.

“Rather than try to ramp up more unsustainable intensive agricultural, the regional council should be investing resources into ensuring agricultural is moved onto an environmentally sustainable footing.”

ends

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