Opinion Piece by Ken Sims (photos from TRM library)
THE RIGHT TO KNOW, THE RIGHT TO SAY
Letter to the Editor
Environment minister Nick Smith was asked recently in Palmerston North why the Government was not aiming for swimmable waterways. He responded that that “I do not think a legal requirement for every water body in New Zealand to be swimmable is practical.” In saying so he abdicates his environmental responsibility.
Of course it isn’t practical with a weak, defeatist attitude like that, along with a strong bias to the government’s corporate bed-fellows in the dairying industry. Even Kiwi family farm dairy farmers generally abhor the corporate dairy structure and culture. And why did government do a state takeover of the formerly democratically elected Environment Canterbury? Simply to expedite
water concessions of the public’s water.
Not that it comes as any surprise. It was Environment Minister Smith just months ago who, along with cabinet colleague Amy Adams, legislated a lowering of water standards for rivers from “swimmable” to “fit for wading and boating.” Now you could wade in a cesspool in fishing waders and most certainly you could boat.
Smith seems bereft of any environmental and ecological conscience. Because an ecosystem approach is vital, Smith should be tackling the problem by having river quality rated directly relative to the health of aquatic invertebrate populations.
Tony Orman, Marlborough
(the letter above was originally written to the ‘Manawatu Standard’)
Ken Sims, of the Manawatu, life member and spokesman for the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers, said the calls were very timely in the face of government continuing to dogmatically push for more large-scale irrigation using taxpayers’ money, and also making it more difficult to oppose this exploitation. “Given the timing, it is difficult not to see this as a Government response to their plans for the Ruataniwha Dam being partially thwarted” he said.
“It should not be forgotten that these rivers are public resources and are not up for grabs by corporate dairying or other commercial interests. Statements by John Key and Nathan Guy would indicate that both cannot yet see that rampant agricultural intensification is the problem, not the solution. Besides, the current slump in dairy prices looks set to continue for some foreseeable time, making it economic lunacy as well as environmental and ecological vandalism” he said.
He said government had long signalled its disregard for rivers and its obsession with exploitation when it proposed lowering river quality standards from fit for swimming to fit for boating and wading. “After all you could boat in a sewage pond and, in waders, wade in a cesspool” he said.
Ken Sims said government intentions were simply short-sighted monetary greed. “What environmental legacy will future generations inherit?”
He said he was deeply disappointed that legislation to lower water standards came from present or recent past governments’ environment and conservation ministers, thereby demeaning their very own portfolios.