Work­ing hard for cleaner water

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By JAMES HOUGHTON

Farm­ers are mak­ing a real ef­fort to help im­prove wa­ter­ways in this coun­try, de­spite what their de­trac­tors claim.

When it comes to water, I guar­an­tee if peo­ple fo­cus solely on ni­trates to mea­sure qual­ity, they will not get to grips with a holis­tic water strat­egy; they will just get empty agri­cul­ture.

I was heart­ened to hear the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment, Amy Adams, prom­ise last week at Fed­er­ated Farm­ers’ na­tional coun­cil that she in­tends to take a hands-on ap­proach to im­ple­ment­ing the Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment for Fresh­wa­ter Man­age­ment, rather than leave it to in­di­vid­ual coun­cils.

Some farm­ers may balk at the idea, but col­lab­o­ra­tion with the government and stake­hold­ers is the best way to show the rest of New Zealand that farm­ers are se­ri­ous about en­vi­ron­men­tal im­prove­ment. Farm­ers are al­ready do­ing this. Dur­ing the past few years the fed­er­a­tion has been hugely in­volved in the Land and Water Fo­rum, de­vel­op­ing a roadmap to im­ple­ment­ing the Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment.

We have lis­tened to stake­hold­ers around the coun­try and they have lis­tened to us.

The re­sult is a truly col­lab­o­ra­tive path­way to pass­ing on a clean and sus­tain­able coun­try to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

The up­shot of the fo­rum’s fi­nal report is that ev­ery­one will be treated the same.

We all have a part to play in re­duc­ing our im­pact on the na­tion’s wa­ter­ways.

Some ur­ban coun­cils are al­ready try­ing to gain ex­emp­tions from this process, as they know the hor­ren­dous costs that will be in­volved.

Farm­ers who have spent hun­dreds of thou­sands on en­vi­ron­men­tal mit­i­ga­tion can sym­pa­thise, but this is some­thing we all need to do.

Mean­while, Massey Univer­sity’s ‘‘eel man’’, Mike Joy, has been do­ing his best to scare tourists off by com­plain­ing in the New York Times about his per­cep­tion of New Zealand’s water qual­ity.

Per­haps it is for the best. Af­ter all, many New Zealand coun­cils have prob­lems con­tain­ing the ex­ist­ing load on their sewer sys­tems, so per­haps we should re­duce any ad­di­tional bums on toi­let seats around the coun­try.

Also, con­sid­er­ing the fuel it takes to bring 2.5 mil­lion tourists here and for them to tour in camper­vans, the in­dus­try racks up a huge fos­sil fuel-based car­bon foot­print, re­gard­less of how much they are taxed for it.

Se­ri­ously, though, with­out tourism this coun­try would be even more re­liant on that other in­dus­try Dr Joy and oth­ers want to shut down – agri­cul­ture. They seem de­ter­mined to ig­nore the good work the in­dus­try has done dur­ing the past decade or so, ig­nor­ing signs that water qual­ity in some ar­eas of Waikato has even be­gun to im­prove un­der mod­ern farm­ing prac­tices.

It would be more con­struc­tive for th­ese peo­ple to sup­port moves to im­prove farm­ing prac­tices and find new, sci­ence-based so­lu­tions for the sec­tor and all New Zealan­ders, who also con­trib­ute to the prob­lem through ev­ery­day life.

I am no jour­nal­ist, but I have a great deal of be­lief in the me­dia’s spe­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to report what is go­ing on as truth­fully as pos­si­ble. It is true there is a lot yet to be done by farm­ers, but we are in­volved and com­mit­ted to real so­lu­tions.

It just seems that no mat­ter what we farm­ers do and say, any good work is fre­quently drowned out by the ‘‘ru­ral bad, ur­ban good’’ crowd.

Yes, when we fail, that should be re­ported. How­ever, for bal­ance and fair­ness, should there not be equal cov­er­age of what we get right?

West­pac chief econ­o­mist Do­minick Stephens ex­plained to Fed­er­ated Farm­ers na­tional coun­cil why our dol­lar is so per­sis­tently high at the moment.

Overseas in­surance un­der­writ­ers need to buy New Zealand dol­lars when paying out for the Christchurch earth­quakes. This fig­ure could be as high as $30 bil­lion.

Our econ­omy is fairly sta­ble – not great, but bet­ter than many other coun­tries.

Com­bined with the bil­lions of dol­lars of debt-free money be­ing tipped into the econ­omy, our dol­lar seems a good bet for cur­rency in­vestors avoid­ing Europe’s in­sta­bil­ity or stag­na­tion in the United States. We can­not do much about it, but I thought it was good to know.

It is now the com­pe­ti­tion time of year and I en­cour­age peo­ple to en­ter.

Com­pe­ti­tions such as the Dairy In­dus­try Awards en­cour­age in­dus­try devel­op­ment and get peo­ple fo­cused on their ca­reers.

Two of my best busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties came from re­la­tion­ships cre­ated in my involvement in th­ese.

I am a strong be­liever th­ese are great for our in­dus­try and we need to cel­e­brate success more.

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