Friday, August 11, 2006

Dirty dairying

Over the past few years, environment groups spearheaded by Fish & Game have run a campaign against "dirty dairying" - the pollution of our lakes and waterways with effluent from dairy farms. The campaign has been largely successful, resulting in dairy co-op Fonterra agreeing with central and local government to require its suppliers to clean up their act and stop dumping their animals shit in our waterways. But dirty dairying isn't just a matter of what happens on the farm - there's also issues raised by the waste from processing the milk. And here things aren't going so well. - otherwise known as the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council - has just granted Fonterra resource consent to discharge 8500 cubic meters of "low-strength" effluent a day into the Manawatu river. Now, the Manawatu is not the most pristine of rivers - Horizons rates it "poor" for contact recreation and "very poor" for nutrient enrichment (meaning that it is almost always too nutrient-rich) in its 2005 State of the Environment report. But surely that suggests that it needs to be cleaned up, rather than existing pollution being used as an excuse to ruin it further. Fonterra had other options for disposal available, including land-based irrigation or discharge into Palmerston North's wastewater system (where the waste would at least have been treated before being dumped into the river); it chose not to use them because, unlike dumping their shit in the river, they cost money, and that cost was judged to be "uneconomic". But if a business is only profitable if it avoids paying the full cost of its activities by dumping them on others, then you really have to ask whether it should be in business at all.

Fortunately, Forest and Bird and other environmental groups will be appealing the decision in the Environment Court. Like the Greens, I'll be cheering for them all the way. In the meantime, Fonterra should consider that its international competitiveness in part depends upon New Zealand's "clean and green" reputation. It would be wise not to undermine that. New Zealand goods have already been targeted in Europe by campaigns highlighting the environmental costs of transporting them there, and campaigns highlighting dirty production methods aren't out of the question. Fonterra would be wise not to give its competitors ammunition to use against it...


I was appalled to hear the utterly cynical statement from the horizons spokesperson on a TV news item (TV3 I think it was). He said something to the effect that if we want pristine rivers we'd have to remove all humans from New Zealand.

The wider issue is that horizons has a very poor record of enforcing constraints on resource consents. I have it on good authority that there are about 400 consents for discharges into the Manawatu: 193 of these have failed consent conditions and horizons has taken no action.

Posted by pohanginapete : 8/12/2006 10:10:00 AM

The horrendous reality is that Horizons has allowed these Consents to continue due to the fact that they are based on the "old boy’s network" system of doing things, rather than following the mandate that they are voted into by the ratepayers to look after our environment.
But only if business is not disturbed, they think.
Are these the values that the ratepayers want the Regional Council to base their decisions on?
These values are clearly shown by their practice of not fining businesses or local councils for breaching consents that have expired etc.
It makes a mockery of the usual punishment regime of NZ where if we are pulled over by police for traffic infringements etc, a costly fine is issued for a breach of the law.
It also shows up Fonterra, who tries to promote its products using the clean, green image of NZ, as a contributing polluter to our wonderful rivers and coastline. Fonterra have chosen the cheapest option for disposing of waste versus the environmentally friendly options.
Let’s hope the people's will to stop this, WILL override business concerns and the old boy’s network in our regional councils. Go NZ/Aotearoa.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/17/2006 02:51:00 PM

Forest and Bird are not appealing!
Can you believe it?
Just one group is...........the Waitarere Environmental Care Association Inc.
The only environmental group who has the guts to stand up for nil discharges to all waterways and take Horizons to mediation.
It is high time every man, women and child started to think about our future generations.
Water is our most precious resource.
We cannot exist without clean water!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2006 08:56:00 PM

Horizons Regional Council has given Fonterra permission to discharge 8500cu.m of “low strength effluent” into the river between May and October for the next 15 years.

Environment groups have been quick to condemn both the council’s decision and Fonterra. However, Fish and Game has been conspicuously absent from entering the fray.

When Dairying Today contacted Fish and Game’s Wellington head office it was told that the organisation was not likely to join a reported appeal of the decision because “the environmental argument is a beat-up”.

“As far as our regional manager [Peter Hill] is concerned the company has met the conditions Fish and Game set down.”

New Zealanders should be very concerned about Peter Hill's statement.

Shame on you Peter Hill!

“Fonterra trades on New Zealand’s pure, clean, green image and it has a responsibility to all of us to help maintain our environment.

Come on Fish and Game get your act together and help save our rivers for future generations!

Posted by Anonymous : 9/24/2006 05:44:00 PM

When toxic waste was dumped seven years ago near the Manawatu River, the local council said not to worry.

Since then, four men have documented and filmed the dump and even hired a chemical engineer to test for poison.

Have they unearthed an appalling cover up?

This is just the beginning!

Watch this space!

Posted by Anonymous : 10/31/2006 01:03:00 PM

Manawatu District Council Mayor Ian McKelvie says he's reassured the Manawatu River is in better shape than he's been led to believe recently.

Mr McKelvie and other mayors from around the region met at Horizons Regional Council yesterday to discuss the state of the Manawatu River.

Horizons chairman Garry Murfitt said the meeting was called because of public worries over the river's condition.

It was attended by mayors Maureen Reynolds (Tararua District Council), Mr McKelvie (Manawatu), Heather Tanguay (Palmerston North), and Mr Murfitt and Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney.

A presentation on the state of the river, following six months of research and monitoring, was given.

Mr McKelvie said the mayors are reassured by the report's findings.

Mrs Tanguay said she is glad to find the quality of water coming from Palmerston North had not deteriorated since the recent installation of new sewerage and wastewater facilities.

Residents are being asked to tell councils what state they want the river to be in as part of Horizons' consultation process for its new One Plan, due to be introduced by July next year. District and city council asset managers will be asked to present information on the costs associated with attaining the levels of water quality sought by the communities, Mr Murfitt said.

Mrs Tanguay said costings were done in 1999 when the PNCC was in consultation for the city's recent treatment plant upgrades. At that time it was estimated that a land- based treatment plant would cost between $40 and $70 million. She said the council was told this option might not have been the best environmental decision, either, due to the type of soil in the area.

Mr Murfitt said estimates would include one for bringing the number of discharges into rivers to zero, but warned it could be expensive.

"People are going to have to realise that if they want a pristine environment, they are going to have to pay for it.

"For (people) to make an informed decision, they really need to know the cost. So we have asked all the asset managers along with our staff to estimate (them).

"And they could be horrific."

He said the river is cleaner than many people seemed to think as the "dirty" looking water is actually silt rather than sewage.

"As a rule of thumb, when the river is clear, it's okay to swim," Mr Murfitt said, although he added it is generally okay when not clear as well. "People tend to believe that when the river is dirty, it is polluted. That is silt."

Silt carries phosphates attached to the soil particles, which can react with nitrates in the river, causing the green plant growth seen in the river "and the perception is that it is polluted".

Mr McKelvie said the future of the rivers could be a balancing act for councils.

"Our community needs to understand the economic and social impact of the standards we want to effect."

He said district and city councils have a responsibility to represent the interests of residents as well as the environment.

Mrs Reynolds said the Tararua district has to upgrade three sewerage plants in the near future.

"We will be looking very closely at what is suitable for the area."

Like others at the meeting she mentioned the importance of understanding the costs involved in various options.

"You can have whatever you wish as long as someone is willing to pay for it."

She cautioned against overspending on short term solutions as community needs and available options are subject to rapid change.

What you have just read, are our leaders in our district, discussing what they think is true and correct, for us the ratepayers and for our future generations!
Our health and our well-being have never ever been discussed, let alone the well-being of the river and its eco-system!
How much is it going to cost to clean this river up?
As usual they will pluck a figure out of the air to scare the ratepayers off!
What ever it costs, it will be cheaper now than leaving it for another 25 years!
For the sake of the people, our exports, our tourism and our environment we need to hold onto our "pure, clean, green image" or suffer the consequences of global warming, with having to put up with polluted water for the rest of our lives and the world not accepting our exports and tourists realising we are not what we portray.
It is time the government stepped in to stop our councils from mucking up our environment to appease councils and business sewage systems to go to the river because it is the cheapest option!

Posted by Anonymous : 11/05/2006 07:19:00 PM