Thursday, March 21, 2013
Dairy Farming and Solid Energy
NIWA and climate scientists have predicted a growing frequency of extreme weather events and it is already happening here and around the world. One drought isn't climate change but there is enough evidence to show a global pattern that fits with scientists' predictions, and this is well explained in the National Geographic. Our latest drought was terrible and has been called a once in 70 years event but we are likely to get more of these in the near future. While we haven't had enough recent droughts to show a trend, we are experiencing more frequent extreme weather events. NIWA has detailed future scenarios of climate change related weather patterns, based on their research, and there is enough evidence to suggest that we have an impending crisis.
The Government also appears to accept that droughts may be more common (but not prepared to accept that there is a high probability of an anthropogenic cause). Yet the Government has still encouraged the intensification of farming to increase production while there is also lots of evidence that we are pushing land use to the limit. We can no longer keep dairy herds fed on what we produce in New Zealand and are having to import palm kernel or PKE (1.4 million tonnes in 2010-11). We are also farming hydroponically in many areas by using unnaturally high levels of water and urea, but with negative environmental consequences. Gore has suffered water shortages every Summer over the past few years because intensive farming is draining the aquifers that the town has used for its water supply. Water in Southland is fully committed in many areas, but the conversions to dairying are continuing and future fracking will also drain supplies.
By sacking Environment Canturbury, injecting large sums of money to support irrigation, and freeing up the RMA, the Government is encouraging even more intensification. When there is a good chance of more extreme droughts then the Government is creating in farming the sort of environment that caused Solid Energy's demise, lots of encouragement to grow but with a predictable sticky end. This is not responsible governance and farmers are now developing a sense of entitlement around water availability that is obviously not sustainable.
If it all turns to custard, as it inevitably will, then the Government will just blame the farmers as they did with Solid Energy.