Proposals don’t go far enough
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.