Monday, September 06, 2021

Too many cows in Canterbury

More than a decade ago, the then-National government overthrew the elected Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) and imposed a Wellington-appointed dictatorship to steal Canterbury's water for farmers. As part of the PR for this, they promised "ambitious" goals to improve water quality. A decade on, have they met those goals? Of course not:

Canterbury’s future water health is murky as a new report reveals that a region-wide conservation plan has met just two of more than 30 goals it set itself a decade ago.

The Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) was created in 2010 in a partnership between Environment Canterbury (ECan), local councils and iwi. It established ten target areas with more than 30 goals to improve water health and management.

A progress report released this week revealed that, 11 years on, just two of those goals had been achieved.


Most of the goals related to freshwater health and biodiversity targets. By last year, just one had been achieved – understanding the risk posed by potential contaminants, which ECan managed through monitoring programmes.

The only other fully met goal was in recreational water quality. Of Canterbury’s lakes and rivers used for swimming, more now met recreational water quality guidelines.

Meeting recreational water guidelines is important, but "understanding risks" is a very soft target. As for the rest, they're failing to meet even basic drinking water standards, while nitrate contamination is increasing.

The fundamental problem for all of this failure is simple: there are too many cows in Canterbury. Those cows pump out shit and piss, which ends up in the rivers and the groundwater, contaminating both. Nitrate levels are rising because of cowpiss and fertiliser. Freshwater health and biodiversity are shit because of cowshit. If Canterbury wants better water, the solution is simple: it needs to cut the pollution at its source, by cutting cow numbers. Until it does, they will continue to poison the environment, and poison Canterbury's people.