Over the past two decades Canterbury has been taken over by the dairy industry. Dry, drought-prone planes have been covered in massive pivot irrigators, sucking the rivers and aquifers dry to feed to thirsty cows to produce milk powder for export. The cows, of course, produce shit, which goes straight into the local rivers, turning them into toxic sewers. What does this mean in practice? Places where people used to swim can no longer be used. And holiday communities are being abandoned as a result:
A tiny, century-old community built around a river can no longer swim in it because it has become too polluted.
A rope swing dangling uselessly by Canterbury's Selwyn River is a reminder of a better time in the tiny community of Selwyn Huts – when families spent long summers in the river, before it became too polluted for swimming.
The lower stretches of the river have become toxic and shallow. The water is so green it glows in the sun.
For about a century, people swam and boated in the river, southwest of Christchurch, but doing so now could make you sick.
Last Christmas, for the first time, the river was empty. Families stayed out of the river and played games on a nearby tennis court instead.
You can't swim, you can't fish, and its only safe to kayak if you decontaminate afterwards. Dairy farmers have destroyed all the other possible uses for the river, effectively stealing it for themselves.
This is the legacy National's pandering to the dairy industry has left us - and what is at stake in this year's local body elections. Dairy pollution and intensification is happening in regions all over the country - in Hastings, in Manawatu, in Marlborough and in Christchurch. Who you elect to regional councils will make a difference to whether your children can use the rivers in the same way you did. Remember that when you get your voting papers, and vote to clean up the mess and shut down the farmers.