Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waituna's Fate in Minister's hands


Nick Smith is in town and having to confront some of our nation's most challenging environmental issues. This will be a real test of his commitment to protect the environment from catastrophic events and show, post election, what we can really expect from this government environmentally.

He faced his first hurdle when confronted by an excellent question from local environmentalist, Chris Henderson. Nick had been promoting the fact that any lignite mining in New Zealand would be modeled on international best practice and Chris' reasonable question "Minister, can you tell us, where is the world's best practice example of lignite mining?" stopped him in his tracks. He wasn't able to give an answer.

Of course the most immediate issue demanding the Minister's attention is the imminent "flipping" of the Waituna lagoon. Russel Norman put the issue high on his agenda and changed his programme earlier in the year to spend time looking at the problem first hand. As Minister of the Environment, Nick has finally made it down to the Deep South to see what can be done for our country's most internationally recognized wetland area.

The Minister had the greatest opportunity to do something significant to save all our fresh water systems with the National Policy for Fresh Water Management, but after delaying the release for some eighteen months the final document was a real disappointment. Regional councils had been crying out for some legislation that would give them real teeth for dealing directly with the causes of water degradation and got a damp bus ticket.

Given the failure of the water management rules to enable drastic change all eyes are on the Minister to see if he will give some strong governmental directives to deal with the most pressing concerns at least. The decline of the water quality in the Waituna catchment is largely due to stocking levels exceeding what the environment can sustain. The water rules do not allow for retrospective changes to consents that were not sustainable, so there needs to be an ability created to remove stock from the immediate catchment and some reasonable compensation to be paid to the farmers affected. This is the only solution that would really make a difference and the environmental clock is ticking......

This short amateur video is worth a look.

6 comments:

Mark said...

Nick is showing some promise as a human.....being born with the proverbial silver spoon the Gnacts are his natural environment - but he has shown an ability to think outside the box.
something you can't accuse his colleagues of....

bsprout said...

Mark, if you are right about Nick showing promise than the Waituna is the ideal time to reveal that promise. I think Federated Farmers have a lobbying strength that Nick has difficulty overcoming despite any good intentions, I guess we shall see....

robertguyton said...

Nick made promising noises today. The ES staff/scientists/planners were, in my opinion, first class. Ngai Tahu put their taiaha in the sand and there were reverberations. The Dairy Men were there.
Their female rep, Miranda, was a shining example to them.
I'm greatly encouraged.

bsprout said...

Herds being shifted away soon?

robertguyton said...

According to Nick, never!
The article in today's paper is less encouraging. Seems Nick wants to make the Council suffer for their past behaviour and I believe they/we will, remembering that only some of the present council were there at the time. If I were them, I'd be nervous. It's becoming clear that Southlander's aren't blind to the fact that ES councillors made decisions in earlier times that have not prevented the near-destruction of Waituna and in fact contributed to it. Remember too, Waituna is not the only 'environment' threatened by the effects of land use (read 'farming' in our region. It's just the wound that's throbbing the most right now. The millions that it will take to clear it up are the first of the millions that will be required to restore the environment down here to balanced health.
Your old adversary Stuart Collie and his cronies have a lot to answer for Dave.

bsprout said...

And I wonder how much Fonterra will donate out of its $293 million post tax profits from the last half year?

http://www.fonterra.com/wps/wcm/connect/83f0f2004636d94194a6df13694cbf95/FOOP031+Interim+Report+web.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

It will come back to the tax and rate payer to subsidize the industry again.