Friday, December 02, 2016

The future of Canterbury

What will Canterbury's future look like? We're seeing it today with the death of the Selwyn River:

The signs say there's a river here, but no one's seen it in months.

A long stretch of the Selwyn River near Christchurch is barren. Its dry river-bed is snaked by tyre tracks, faint clues of its past as a river disappearing as it becomes a vehicle track.

A beloved swimming spot downstream is stagnant. Fish and eels die in their dozens, trapped in pools evaporating around them.

It's not new for some parts of the Selwyn to dry up, but the scale of this year's disappearance is unprecedented.

The causes? Prolonged low rainfall and over-extraction for irrigation. The former is a result of climate change, which is predicted to significantly increase drought in Canterbury. The latter is the result of the greed of the dairy industry. As for what to do about it, over-extraction is easier to control with policy, so if we want there to be a river for future generations, we should start by eliminating that.