Friday, March 19, 2010

Winning a battle, losing the war

As I'm sure everyone has heard, Southdown Holdings Ltd, Williamson Holdings Ltd and Five Rivers Ltd have withdrawn their applications for resource consent for industrial dairying in the Mackenzie basin over concerns about the cost of the call-in. This is great news for the environment. The industrial dairying proposal would have fundamentally changed one of our most striking natural landscapes, competed with electricity generators for water, and polluted some of our most pristine waterways, as well as raised significant animal welfare issues. Now none of that will be happening. We won!

But while we won in the Mackenzie country, we're losing everywhere else. The latest report from Fonterra on their Clean Streams Accord (a voluntary measure to reduce dirty dairying) shows that overall compliance has dropped from 64 to 60 percent. In other words, our farmers are getting dirtier, pumping more shit into the rivers, and doing less to clean up after themselves. In Canterbury, where the government is soon to install a dictatorship to ignore "solve" water quality issues, the compliance rate is even worse, at 43%. So more than half of Canterbury's dairy farmers don't give a shit about the environment.

This is unacceptable. These are our rivers, our streams, our lakes that these selfish pricks are polluting. And the result of their pollution is to ruin them and deny their use to the rest of us. Who wants to swim in a river full of cowshit? Not kiwis, and certainly not the foreign tourists who are our biggest export earner.

Its clear from these results that the Clean Streams Accord has failed (not that we didn't know that already). Farmers will not voluntarily clean up their act. Therefore, they need to be made to, by tightening environmental standards and resource consent conditions, and prosecuting those who fail to comply. More broadly, Green co-leader Russel Norman points out the lacuna in the RMA: that while you need resource consent for practically any other polluting industrial process, you don't need it for sticking cows in a paddock. "Production land" is excluded.

This has to change. Farming is a polluting activity, with significant environmental effects, and it needs to be regulated as such. Otherwise, we will continue to see our greenhouse emissions rise, and our rivers and lakes turn into sewers and effluent ponds.