Monday, July 14, 2014

Election 2014: A clear choice on clean rivers

The National government's policy for economic growth has been simple: pump up dairy production, export more low-value milk powder, and keep low-value farmers as the "backbone of the economy". To achieve this, they've dismantled democracy in Canterbury, pillaged rivers, thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at subsidising irrigation schemes, gagged DoC from speaking up for conservation, and gutted the RMA. And to deal with the obvious consequence of shit in our rivers, and shit in our drinking water, they've lowered water quality standards so that rivers will be defined as clean even when you have a 5% chance of infection just from touching them.

Over the weekend the Greens responded with a different proposal: lets have clean rivers instead:

The Green Party's plan to restrict dams and irrigation schemes, and make rivers clean enough to swim in, would save taxpayer money and benefit the agricultural industry in the long term, says co-leader Russel Norman.

The party launched one pillar of its election environmental policy in Hamilton yesterday: cleaning up rivers with a strengthening of existing regulations, a tighter cap on pollution, and setting up a protected network of rivers.

National is already attacking the policy as "irresponsible", "costly", and "impractical". I'd say the same about theirs. Dirty rivers cost us money. There's the obvious threats to tourism and to the dairy industry itself, both of which are marketed on our national reputation as "100% pure". But beyond that, we're also paying directly in pollution subsidies and decontamination and health costs, and indirectly in forgone recreation and industrial opportunities. These are real costs, and they should not be ignored. But the only side of the balance sheet National sees is the one which benefits their donors and cronies in Federated Farmers. To them, environmental costs just don't exist.

This election, we have a clear choice on that: on whether to count environmental costs, or ignore them. On whether to pollute, or protect. On whether we want clean rivers, or shit-filled sewers which make us sick. And I think that's a pretty clear choice.