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Farmers and Councils equal culprits in water degradation

Farmers and Councils equal culprits in water degradation

Federated Farmers NZ’s cry that farm impact on water quality has been blown out of proportion has been challenged by a national trout fishing advocacy.

Graham Carter, president of NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers said Federated Farmers was guilty again of making up rhetoric to make excuses.

"Their failed PR campaign to lift their image has failed once again as the citizens of NZ refuse to believe the denials put out yet again,” he said.

While many farmers had gone the "extra mile" and fenced off some waterways there was still much to be done.

“The problem is not just a 5 metre strip beside streams and rivers but one of watershed management. The smaller creeks and drains require as much attention as the wanton fertiliser spreading needs adjusting,” he said.

Super phosphate contained high levels of cadmium which the farmers were not being warned about while palm kernel feed contained high levels of copper. Both metals were leached into waterways and were slowly killing the soil health and land.

The regions were expected to be big winners under the new Government, but Federated Farmers needed to stop making excuses.

"With government’s intention to plant trees as shown by minister Shane Jones being given a blank cheque to buy votes, farmers who did not care much about the environment would have no excuse but to sort out the mess they have created in our waterways if they want to buy into Jones vote buying campaign.

Graham Carter said Federated Farmers president Katie Milne claim that misinformation had led many Kiwis to believe a tax would save the environment showed the wrong attitude.

"Uninformed representatives of Federated Farmers need to take responsibility and understand that fencing off riparian strips is only the tip of the iceberg towards stopping waterway degradation. Most Kiwis want farmers to pay for water and rightly so. If the farmers return the water to its source in the same condition it was in when they took it then perhaps an exemption could be looked at".
Farmers were still learning and addressing systems from a lot of different angles. Excess irrigation, irrigating in the heat of the day leading to loss of water through evaporation, dairy intensification, poor effluent management and excess fertiliser applications led to poor water quality.

“Five metre riparian strips while helpful were a small part of the problem.” he said "it’s a bigger issue than what Katie Milne imagines.”"

The public in the pre-election run-up talked about waterway degradation. Many voters firmly believed they voted for change from Environment minister Nick Smith’s denial of deteriorating rivers.

“Anglers are very much like canaries in the coal mine alert to the significant rise in degradation of the rivers and know that intensified dairying is a major factor."

At the same time it was important urban areas rectified inadequate discharges into rivers. It’s a New Zealand nationwide responsibility for all, farmers included. Councils were as big a culprit as farmers and the people that use the water whether for farming or recreation, need to band together and force local bodies to put things right.

“Importantly as a major factor, Federated Farmers NZ needs to stop making excuses and work with Fish and Game and the Federation to understand the issues so a team effort results,” said Graham Carter.

© Scoop Media

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