In a submission to the Ministry for the Environment, the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers (NZFFA) spokesman Rex Gibson of Christchurch said a ministry’s discussion document on freshwater management clearly ignored the crisis surrounding the health of the nation’s lakes, rivers and streams.
“In effect, this will result in regional councils being the judge, jury and executioner of environmental health. Based on past performances the Federation is highly sceptical of regional council’s ability and motivation to safeguard and restore the ailing health of freshwater in New Zealand.”
The specific wording in the document requiring that it “does not constrain economic activity” clearly ignored the original purpose of protecting the purity of the nation’s waterways and health of their natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
The Federation had no faith in “parish pump politics” as a mechanism to provide consistent and meaningful standards.
Rex Gibson said the crisis around freshwater mismanagement began 25 years ago at the same time massive increases in the intensification of dairy farming and other factors such as accelerated sediment runoff from forestry clear felling, had led to the present crisis of degraded, de-watered rivers. Canterbury had experienced a 500% increase in dairy farming with animal numbers for the region alone exploding up to 1.2 million cows.
“We can only conclude that the wording in the document seems dishonest writing designed to deceive people,” he added.
The New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers, whose members have fought for the protection and guardianship of our precious freshwater resource for over forty years, are sickened by Dave Hansford, the pro-1080 blogger, who has chosen to use the freshwater crisis to express his prejudice against introduced species.
As part of National Radio’s ‘Water Fools’ series, Hansford penned an opinion piece ‘Filthy water report: A starting point or an end game?’ in which he states “We must stop worshipping trout and the dollars they bring, and respect instead the right of our native fish to endure.”
Federation spokesperson David Haynes said “ Using freshwater as a vehicle to bitch about trout is, at best, divisive and brings nothing positive to the table.” Haynes continues, “Our members have been boots-on-the-ground for years helping with riparian planting, helping kids get outdoors to learn to fish and actively engaging with central and regional Government, such as ECan, trying to stop the continued depletion and degradation of our rivers and lakes. Right now we are supporting an application by the Water and Wildlife Habitat Trust to restore Snake Creek, a tributary of Ellesmere/Te Waihora. When we try to fix a degraded watercourse, it is for the benefit of the whole ecosystem, of which trout may be just one component. It is because of our trout that 100,000 people enjoy our freshwater and give a damn about it.” Trout are a vital component of the diet of native species such as eels, cormorants (shags), herons and numerous native wading birds. A decline in trout numbers can lead to declines in some native species at risk.
Cawthron’s research over many years has shown that trout are far more sensitive to pollution and sediment than our native fish species and hence act as the canary in the coal mine for health of freshwater – when they are no longer present the river health has collapsed.
Trout were first introduced into New Zealand in 1867 and have since become an integral part of the Kiwi outdoors heritage along with game hunting, sea fishing and the right to ‘get a feed for the family.’
News From Elsewhere
A campaign group in New Zealand has turned to the infamous staple of social media conversations – the poo emoji – to make its point to the government about its handling of the environment.
Protesters from the Action Station group launched 50 inflatable poo emojis onto Lake Ohakuri on the Waikato River near to where the ruling National Party was holding a conference, to highlight new standards which it says would mean more contaminants in freshwater, the New Zealand Herald reports.
The group claims that the proposed new standards would not improve water quality, and would instead result in “more poo and wee in the water” – hence the emoji-based protest. “We decided to have some fun with the emojis to illustrate our point, but this is not a light hearted issue,” campaigner Laura O’Connell-Rapira told the paper.
The proposed new standards, announced in February, are part of what environment minister Nick Smith says is an ambitious plan to make 90% of New Zealand’s rivers swimmable by 2040, the Stuff.co.nz website says.
However, environmentalists say the government has “shifted the goalposts” by basing water cleanliness on the amount of E.coli contamination, meaning that a “clean” river could still contain dangerous quantities of faecal matter containing other harmful bacteria.
It’s not the first time that the New Zealand water standards policy has made the news. In March, one campaigner publicly challenged environment minister Nick Smith to a boxing match next to a polluted water hole which is now classed as suitable for swimming under the new measures. The loser had to “frolic in the water hole for no less than five minutes”, the challenge, published in a newspaper advert, said.
The Action Station campaigners are now selling their inflatables, but say they’ll be back with another similar stunt in Wellington Harbour.
Reporting by Alistair Coleman