Hit the re­fresh but­ton for wa­ter

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - ALAN WILLS

OPIN­ION: Any­one with an opin­ion or agenda about wa­ter qual­ity has re­ceived plenty of me­dia play of late.

We reg­u­larly hear about ‘‘dirty dairy­ing’’, ‘‘in­dus­trial dairy farm­ing’’ and just the other day I heard some­one on break­fast tele­vi­sion talk­ing about ‘‘rivers of milk.’’ There are no rivers of milk. Some of the de­bate is con­struc­tive but much of it is nar­rowly fo­cused, emo­tional and po­lit­i­cally driven. There seems to be no ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the big­ger pic­ture.

Yes, in New Zealand, as it is all over the world, we have a prob­lem with wa­ter qual­ity. I would sug­gest that no one sec­tion of the com­mu­nity of New Zealand has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of it than those who live ru­rally. Be­cause we are part of the prob­lem, we ac­cept that we need to be part of the solution.

The peo­ple who live in ru­ral New Zealand are liv­ing and breath­ing it all of the time. We are well aware of the part we need to play.

No doubt about it, dairy has seen some huge growth. Some of it has come from the fact the sheep and beef in­dus­try hasn’t been able to com­pete for its tra­di­tional land use base.

It has also come from the op­por­tu­nity the dairy in­dus­try of­fered, one that has been taken up by some big play­ers.

How­ever, it needs to be ap­pre­ci­ated that the foun­da­tion of farm­ing in New Zealand is still based on the fam­ily farm. That gives a strong sense of own­er­ship and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to get things right for the gen­er­a­tions who will fol­low us.

We are a fourth gen­er­a­tion farm in Re­poroa. There is plenty of en­vi­ron­men­tal en­hance­ment ac­tiv­ity hap­pen­ing in ru­ral ar­eas for which to date very lit­tle credit has been given. What has been done is re­flected in the fact that 80 per cent of our wa­ter­ways have an im­prov­ing or main­tain­ing wa­ter qual­ity trend.

On our farm our streams are all fenced and we com­mit up to $6000 an­nu­ally to ri­par­ian plant­ing. The Healthy Rivers Plan Change for the Waikato River will see us all work­ing un­der farm en­vi­ron­ment plans and a fo­cus on good man­age­ment prac­tice.

To use our farm again as an ex­am­ple, we have also iden­ti­fied three in­fras­truc­tural is­sues which we will put right in the next 18 months.

Wa­ter qual­ity is trend­ing in the right di­rec­tion and the key fac­tor will be time. The pro­posed Healthy River Plan looks out over 80 years.

There is no quick fix, but it is un­der­stood and be­ing worked on; as with the hous­ing crises or traf­fic is­sues in our big cities it won’t be re­solved overnight.

The over use of punchy one­lin­ers to score po­lit­i­cal points but of­fer no so­lu­tions will achieve noth­ing.


Wa­ter qual­ity is a hot topic.

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