Pro­pos­als don’t go far enough

South Canterbury Herald - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - KIM­BER­LEY COLLINS

Last month, my­self and other en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in the re­gion at­tended a se­ries of open days held through­out South Can­ter­bury on the Orari Te­muka Opihi Pare­ora wa­ter zone rec­om­men­da­tions.

Once fi­nalised, these will set out the sus­tain­able man­age­ment of wa­ter re­sources in the re­gion and give lo­cal in­put into how regional coun­cils man­age land and wa­ter.

On the sur­face, the rec­om­men­da­tions ac­knowl­edge that our catch­ment is over al­lo­cated and pol­luted.

It’s great to see the com­mit­tee putting for­ward a plan to turn this around.

But if you dig deeper, it ap­pears they don’t go far enough and ig­nore three key is­sues that could fur­ther de­grade the qual­ity of our wa­ter­ways.

The rec­om­men­da­tions ig­nore the im­pact cli­mate change will have on our re­gion, which is fright­en­ing.

Can­ter­bury is al­ready a dry re­gion and given that our catch­ment is over al­lo­cated, the sit­u­a­tion will only be­come more se­ri­ous.

Al­ready, we are see­ing news sto­ries about new records be­ing set for the hottest day, week, and years in recorded his­tory.

We re­ally have to deal with cli­mate change now in order to safe­guard our fu­ture.

The se­cond is­sue to be left out of these rec­om­men­da­tions is the im­por­tance of a macroin­ver­te­brate community in­dex (also known as the MCI).

In­ver­te­brates such as in­sects, worms, and snails play a key role in fresh­wa­ter ecosys­tems. They keep al­gae lev­els down and are a source of food for fish and birds. They are sen­si­tive to changes in wa­ter qual­ity, which means they are ex­cel­lent in­di­ca­tors of how the wa­ter­way is do­ing, also known as eco­log­i­cal health.

Although the com­mit­tee has done well to rec­om­mend re­duc­tions in ni­trate lev­els, in­clud­ing the MCI will im­prove the eco­log­i­cal health of wa­ter­ways and make them more liv­able for fish, in­sects, and birds.

But are they enough to make a dif­fer­ence?

Or are they just re­duc­ing ni­trates based on what hu­mans are will­ing to sac­ri­fice, rather than what eco­log­i­cal sys­tems need to sur­vive’?

The rec­om­men­da­tions do lit­tle to ac­knowl­edge the role that ground­wa­ter has on the health of our catch­ment.

The qual­ity and quan­tity of our sur­face wa­ter de­pends on ground­wa­ter ecosys­tems that are healthy and thriv­ing.

Ground­wa­ter is ac­knowl­edged as a re­source, but not for the role as an ecosys­tem that our sur­face wa­ter de­pends on.

Not in­clud­ing ground­wa­ter ecosys­tems means they aren’t con­sid­er­ing the whole pic­ture and rec­om­men­da­tions will, in ef­fect, be half as mean­ing­ful.

When it comes time for Environment Can­ter­bury to con­sider the eco­nomics of its rec­om­men­da­tions, I hope it will con­sider the cost that de­grad­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources will have on fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

These as­sess­ments paint an al­tered ver­sion of re­al­ity and as­sume that all en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources will be free and in­fi­nite.

But if our catch­ment con­tin­ues on its cur­rent path of de­cline, we can ex­pect fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and the re­gion to suf­fer.

Do we want that on our con­sciences for the sake of busi­ness as usual? Kim­ber­ley Collins is a Ti­marubased en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tor.

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