Dirty streams, dirty pol­i­tics

Voted? Not me, not yet. I’ll be chow­ing pop­corn as the elec­tion builds to an out­raged cli­max.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

Oh, to have the con­fi­dence of the early voter. More than 250,000 of us have al­ready cast votes with six days of cam­paign­ing still to go, and although the ma­jor par­ties say their poli­cies are now out for all to see, the ruc­tions con­tinue – and I just can’t look away. While Bill English and Jacinda Ardern in­sist their man­i­festos present a clear choice – steady as she goes from Na­tional and the wave of change from Labour – the vac­il­lat­ing polls show that Ki­wis are con­fused by the op­tions, and, un­able to sep­a­rate the two where poli­cies meet in the mid­dle, are chang­ing their colours day to day. It’s tricky ground for the politi­cians. Ardern promised to be re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive and has stuck to it, leav­ing her front bench-in-wait­ing to get among it. Na­tional has no such re­stric­tions. In the space of 15 sec­onds, its new at­tack ad fea­tured a pic­ture of a fam­ily home to rep­re­sent a cap­i­tal gains tax (al­ready ruled out by Labour for fam­ily homes), a petrol pump for a re­gional fuel tax, and glasses of wa­ter, beer, milk, wine, and juice on a do­mes­tic kitchen bench­top to rep­re­sent a wa­ter roy­alty. Oh, and a sin­gle flat­u­lent cow, for the ‘‘fart tax’’ (never mind that 95 per cent of the meth­ane ac­tu­ally comes out of the other end). In­ces­sant bang­ing on the tax drum by Na­tional had its ef­fect. This week, Labour called out the ‘‘lies’’ but pulled back, promis­ing to stow the re­sults of it’s Tax Work­ing Group un­til af­ter the 2020 elec­tion. Of all the taxes/le­vies/roy­al­ties that haunt Na­tional’s dreams, the wa­ter roy­alty ap­pears to be the scari­est, given the amount of free­lance mus­cle now fronting. Fed­er­ated Farm­ers, which loathes the idea of pay­ing for wa­ter, has closed in like a pha­lanx of black­suited body­guards. They made a rea­son­able start, with a pledge by eight farm­ing lead­ers to make all New Zealand rivers swimmable. Ini­tially well­re­ceived, it lost its gloss a lit­tle when it be­came clear there was no plan, no clear tar­get, and no time­line at­tached. A new voice was needed. En­ter Waikato farmer Lloyd Down­ing, cho­sen as the face of a mass protest planned for Mor­rinsville to­mor­row. He’s just the ticket: ar­tic­u­late in the ca­sual way Ki­wis love. Farm­ers are be­ing un­fairly tar­geted, he reck­ons, and just want a fair go. Look how far we’ve come, he says. When asked for ev­i­dence, he tells the story of his old dad, back when Lloyd was a lad, tak­ing the farm’s rub­bish and chuck­ing it in the river. I used to shoot at the used light bulbs, he says, as they floated away! No­body does that any more.

But Ki­wis are past the point where anec­dotes from long ago will suf­fice. Sev­enty per cent of New Zealan­ders now sup­port the idea that busi­nesses that use large amounts of wa­ter should pay. While we ac­cept many farm­ers are do­ing bet­ter, we are yet to see any mea­sur­able im­prove­ment in our fresh­wa­ter qual­ity. Just yes­ter­day, wa­ter sci­en­tist Pro­fes­sor Mike Joy posted in frus­tra­tion that ‘‘wa­ter qual­ity in NZ rivers is NOT IM­PROV­ING. It is de­clin­ing’’.

And the ar­gu­ments are not new. ‘‘Farm­ers have too much po­lit­i­cal power,’’ said rightwing com­men­ta­tor Matthew Hooton in North & South mag­a­zine in 2015. ‘‘They want free wa­ter, they don’t want to pay. And if I was a farmer, it’s ex­actly what I would ar­gue. But you wouldn’t make that case for fer­tiliser, would you? There’s no other in­put they don’t pay for, ex­cept the sun.’’

It’s not a sen­ti­ment we’ll see on the plac­ards when Lloyd Down­ing leads the farm­ing faith­ful down Mor­rinsville’s main street on Mon­day, I’m guess­ing.

But hold on a mo, why Mor­rinsville any­way? Of the 1.2 mil­lion hectares of farmed land in the Waikato, only 20,000 hectares are un­der ir­ri­ga­tion. It’s not the re­gion you’d be look­ing at as an epi­cen­tre of ru­ral out­rage.

Oh that’s right, it’s Jacinda Ardern’s home town.

So close to elec­tion day, and so dirty. If you’ve al­ready cast your vote, good for you, you can re­lax. I’ll be here, chow­ing on the pop­corn, till the end.

Ali Mau is the host of Ra­dio LIVE Drive, 3-6pm week­days.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.