Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Taranaki's dirty council

This is appalling: the Tarankai Regional Council still lets dairy farmers discharge their cowshit directly to waterways:

A leading freshwater scientist has expressed surprise that Taranaki farmers are still discharging treated effluent into waterways.

The New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society president Waikato University Professor David Hamilton said many other regional councils prosecute anyone who discharges into waterways.

"I'd have thought that the enormous efforts that have gone into protecting waterways through riparian planting would have been complemented by land-based effluent applications to try and reduce the impact from those oxidation ponds."

Half of the region's farmers, about 900, discharge treated effluent into streams and waterways.

As part of the review of its freshwater plan the Taranaki Regional Council is looking at requiring farmers to discharge on to land unless given permission by the council in certain weather conditions.

By comparison, the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council apparently has only two such discharge permits, and every month or so I read a story about someone being fined for taking insufficient care with their shit and letting it overflow.

This is not how a modern council should be taking care of its environment. But as Rachel Stewart points out, the council and councillors are deeply conflicted on the subject. Its chair, David MacLeod, is on Fonterra's board of directors, and the council has invested substantially in Fonterra bonds, giving them a direct financial interest in pollution.

This simply isn't good enough. Regional Councils have a statutory duty under the Resource Management Act to sustainably manage their waterways. Taranaki Regional Council isn't doing this. It needs to clean its act up, and remove those conflicts of interest, so that people can have confidence in it as an environmental regulator.