Water quality is a major issue at the moment, with dairy farmers poisoning our lakes, rivers and streams with their runoff. So I was surprised yesterday to learn that the Waikato Regional Council was cancelling airborne spot checks on water pollution. I was even more surprised to hear the reason: because the flights stressed farmers:
Helicopter flights checking dairy farmers' effluent compliance in Waikato have been temporarily grounded because they're causing stress to farmers.
Waikato Regional Council has halted the flights, which were used to look for effluent running into waterways, while it carries out a review of the use of helicopters for monitoring farmers.
Federated Farmers and the Dairy Women's Network made presentations to the council last week saying the flights could be stressful to farmers and they spoke of high suicide rates in rural areas.
I expect burglars and murderers also find the fear of getting caught stressful, but we don't view that as a reason to stop trying to catch them. We should treat environmental criminals the same. These are public waterways which are being polluted, and the perpetrators can be identified from public airspace and targeted for a followup check. That seems to be a sensible and effective means of enforcement.
(Meanwhile, I'm wondering: if Regional Councils are too afraid to do this, can environmental groups do it? It seems to be a job perfectly suited for an airborne drone)