Lack of leadership muddies the water
Thanks to Bruce Wills who penned last month’s column. His thoughts on water and the challenges we all face gave us more insight on this important topic.
Clean and plentiful water is truly a complex subject. There is plenty of opinion and few evidential facts used in much of the debate that swirls around New Zealand. I note there are many “social media experts” who chip in their 10c worth at the drop of a tweet. Many are just emotive opinion with little consideration of the facts and lack any scientific evidence or even a suggestion of realistic outcomes.
Clean and plentiful water is not just a New Zealand issue but also a global one. I am constantly reading articles on the same subject around the world. In many cases you could cross out the country name and write New Zealand because these are similar to the debates we are having here. Whose fault is it that we don’t have enough water or when did significant parts of our rivers become unswimable? Unfortunately, we have lots of people finger pointing and no leadership that would bring all sides together to find solutions. In New Zealand the biggest loser is still the environment and no one is satisfied. How do we constructively conquer this complex conundrum?
I recently attended a symposium at Lincoln University organised by the university and the National Science Challenge Board of Our Land and Water. All sides of the spectrum attended and there were some excellent presentations. Unfortunately, I heard little about practical solutions as most presentations focused on the problems, and boy do we have them. Short of closing the country down and all humans departing New Zealand, the symposium lacked real solutions. I will watch with interest as to how the National Science Challenge deals with this over the coming years. Interestingly more than 95% of the two days was about water and next to no one addressed the question of protecting our land.
The Land and Water Forum spent years in this space and when we had all sides sitting at the table good progress was made on some very difficult stuff. Unfortunately, a number of the Environmental NGOs walked away, and there was a lack of political will from central government to adopt the package of recommendations made by the forum. Now, I’m not the Minister for the Environment and I don’t know which support parties he has to convince to support the package of recommendations, but at some point we have to get a landing on this. Who and where is the roadblock? The cost to New Zealand is too great if we don’t find a package of solutions. From where I sit not only is our environment missing out but also society is entrenched in a blame game, rather than working towards a solution. Every New Zealander has a role to play at fixing this issue; we need leadership from a number of key people and I suspect a major commitment to fund it. Many of the problems have occurred over a long period of
time and solutions will equally take time before we see improvements.
As we all know 2017 is an election year and all voters have a choice to make at the ballot box on September 23. Horticulture New Zealand has made a number of suggestions to political parties about policies they should adopt. We welcome informed debate on these topics and hopefully we will see them become reality. Horticulture New Zealand sees these issues and suggested outcomes as sound and good for our members, the wider community and the New Zealand economy.
These topics include
Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) of fresh fruit and vegetables for informed consumer choice at retail.
Protection of our best and most productive soils for food, leading to a food security policy.
Hort NZ chief executive Mike Chapman wrote a good article in last month’s magazine that covers these areas in more detail. Please raise these topics with friends and families. Your help is appreciated.
Two cyclones Debbie and Cook created an unusual and difficult harvest for many. Too much rain can be just as devastating as too little. For those who have suffered floods and the heartache of losing a crop I hope that you have dried out and got some normality back in your lives. Support is available through the Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254 or Hort NZ on 0508 467 869.
The kiwifruit industry learned a lot when Psa devastated it. During this time good systems were developed to support those struggling personally with the challenges.
For most of us the two cyclones brought lots of rain and difficult conditions for 10 days. Many growers I know just had to soldier on and get the job done. Markets and crops don’t wait for ideal harvest conditions. Retail shelves have to be filled on time with quality produce. Supermarket buyers and consumers adapted to what was available, and in most cases were satisfied. Unsurprisingly, consumers understood the difficulties we were having.
Perhaps there is a lesson for us in there when dealing with the water issues in the environment space?
“Clean and plentiful water is not just a New Zealand issue but also a global one.”