Waikato River among the clean­est in NZ

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - KINGS­LEY FIELD

The Waikato River is one of the five clean­est rivers in the world, ac­cord­ing to a lead­ing Waikato Univer­sity sci­en­tist.

Pro­fes­sor Jac­que­line Rowarth, Pro­fes­sor of Agribusi­ness at the univer­sity, told a gath­er­ing of more than 180 farm­ers and land own­ers at Pukekohe, that in the past 70 years in­creased fer­til­ity and hu­mus on farm land had al­lowed grasses to pro­vide good root struc­ture and thus bet­ter soil sta­bil­ity in hill coun­try.

This had steadily re­duced the run-off of soil and other nu­tri­ents into wa­ter­ways, and grad­u­ally river wa­ter qual­ity across the na­tion was im­prov­ing. The Waikato, Clutha and Waitaki Rivers were clas­sic ex­am­ples of this im­prove­ment, and all three were now rated among the top five clean­est rivers in the world.

Peo­ple at the gath­er­ing were con­cerned at the im­pact of the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil’s Healthy River Plan Change 1 (PC1) on land own­ers and users through­out the coun­cil’s area. The meet­ing was or­gan­ised by the Pri­mary Land Users Group (PLUG), who had asked Pro­fes­sor Rowarth for her opinion on the state of the rivers run­ning through the Waikato re­gion.

The group, rep­re­sent­ing a cross-sec­tion of forestry, dairy, hor­ti­cul­ture and dry-stock lan­dusers, has mis­giv­ings over what they be­lieve will be ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive im­pacts’’ that PC1 will have on both the pri­mary sec­tor in­dus­tries and on ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties gen­er­ally through­out the Waikato.

Pro­fes­sor Rowarth told the meet­ing that the con­cept of PC1, as pre­sented by the WRC, was founded on mod­el­ling which had un­re­li­able out­comes, and that the reg­u­la­tions im­posed in the Plan Change did not have a ro­bust sci­en­tific ba­sis.

And, she said, the so­cial and eco­nomic out­comes of the re­sult­ing reg­u­la­tions for af­fected ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties were con­sid­er­able.

She said that through avail­able sci­en­tific reporting, the out­comes which PC1 sought could be achieved through good land man­age­ment prac­tices. This, she said, was an ap­proach which was far more likely to foster in­no­va­tion, suc­ces­sion and pro­gres­sion within farm­ing and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with­out dam­ag­ing or pos­si­bly de­stroy­ing the liveli­hoods of hard-work­ing farm­ing fam­i­lies and their ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

She told the meet­ing that her in­ves­ti­ga­tions into in­ter­na­tional wa­ter­ways had shown that they car­ried con­sid­er­ably higher lev­els of ni­tro­gen than those in New Zealand, yet those lev­els were not caus­ing hu­man deaths. She con­cluded that New Zealand wa­ter­ways’ ni­tro­gen lev­els were ‘‘well be­low ac­cept­able stan­dards’’.

She also ex­pressed con­cern at the so­cial im­pact the PC1 change would have in ru­ral ar­eas, say­ing that more than 5000 jobs through­out the wider Waikato re­gion were pre­dicted to be lost if the scheme was im­ple­mented.

Com­ment­ing on the meet­ing, Bruce Cameron, a Glen Mur­ray dry-stock farmer and an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of PLUG, said that to know the Waikato River was one of the world’s clean­est rivers ‘‘should be shouted from the rooftops, and New Zealan­ders should be very proud of how well they are be­ing looked after’’.

‘‘It goes to show that the work done by farm­ers over the years is re­flected by the up­ward trend in im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity,’’ he said.

‘‘One won­ders why the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil PC1 has come down so hard on farm­ers across the catch­ments of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers. On the easy coun­try it may be sim­ple to fence off rivers and streams, but this is not so in the hill coun­try.

‘‘There, for very lit­tle gain, the huge costs of fenc­ing can­not be jus­ti­fied.’’

Waikato Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor of agribusi­ness Jac­que­line Rowarth.

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