Monday, February 22, 2016

Pillaging our rivers again

Since coming into office, pillaging our rivers has been a major focus for National. They turned Canterbury into a dictatorship so they could give its fresh water to farmers, established deliberately weak "national bottom lines" of rivers that will make you sick so they could keep on polluting, even tried to let Regional Councils trash one river provided they improved another until the Environment Court stopped them. And now they're back for another go, with a package of Next steps for freshwater released over the weekend.

The Herald has seized on the proposal to fine farmers who let their stock intrude into waterways. But while its good to have the principle established, the fines are paltry: $100 per head with a $2000 maximum will not provide a real incentive for a multi-million dollar business to improve its behaviour. And given the general lack of enforcement on this issue, farmers are likely to think they can dodge the fine anyway. In other words, its just a pure PR exercise.

Meanwhile, while they're pretending to crack down, they're really doing the opposite. There's a proposal to "clarify" what it means to "maintain or improve water quality", which is simply an attempt to overturn the Environment Court's ruling outlawing offsets. And they're trying to stack the process on Water Conservation Orders to allow the Minister to just ignore applications and to make them subject to regional plans (which of course are set by and for farmers). The net result will be to open up protected rivers for exploitation, while reducing protection in the future (meanwhile, Nick Smith is trying to pretend its all about protecting iwi interests - but that stuff can very obviously be done without weakening WCOs, and it should be).

Despite its spin, National is not interested in protecting our rivers - they are interested in draining them dry and filling them with cowshit. If we want clean water, we will need to elect a government which will deliver that - and that means someone other than National.