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The Canterbury Water Management Strategy – A Recipe For Disaster

For three years the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers has deliberately focused on the Canterbury region which was identified as New Zealand’s “front line” for public rivers degraded and or lost to irrigation. Dr Peter Trolove said the Federation’s advocacy has centred on a series of articles pointing out the situation from an angler’s perspective. These were posted on the NZFFA website and in the media.

"Distrust of the Canterbury Regional Council’s environmental monitoring especially under the regime of Ecan appointed commissioners prompted the Federation to do its own (nitrate) pollution monitoring of ground and surface waters in the region. Along the way we have given much consideration as to how ECan got it so badly wrong,” he said.

His conclusion is that the Canterbury Water Management Strategy has been a disaster for Canterbury anglers and the region’s freshwater environments.

Dr Trolove described the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) as seriously flawed and a failure.

“The CWMS is a political swindle with aspirational promises to deliver environmental outcomes that have not been achieved while fast tracking ill-considered irrigation projects throughout Canterbury that have resulted in long term environmental harm. Like a modern day version of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” ECan and its staff appear unable to see or admit this naked deceit because they have become too invested in the CWMS,” he said.

Ecan’s CEO Dr Stefanie Rixecker is in an untenable position.

Greenpeace in early June of this year was strongly critical saying with spokesman Steve Abel saying "ECan’s downplaying of the enormous impact of dairy intensification in Canterbury over the last 30 years – during which time the nitrate problem has vastly worsened – is frankly chilling”.

To which ECan responded saying Greenpeace’s claim was insulting.

Dr Trolove said Greenpeace is correct that ECan has achieved no demonstrable improvement in Canterbury’s freshwater. ECan’s Dr Rixecker's defence was to point out the economic success of the recent irrigation development in the region and advise that $60 million dollars of rate payer money has been invested to improve water quality throughout Canterbury.

“But that investment has been ineffective,” said Dr Trolove.

Reports indicate a number of first term ECan councillors are asking for evidence of improvements to Canterbury’s freshwater.

"It is a certainty that freshwater will be front and centre at the next local body elections in October 2022,” said Dr Trolove.

The CWMS has been in effect since 2010.

"It is primarily an irrigation plan. Unless Ecan can find the moral character to admit that this has been an unfortunate case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and set a new path, the degradation of Canterbury’s freshwater will continue,” predicted Dr Trolove.

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