Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mike Butler: Wrecked rivers, iwi demands


Rapid changes in land use leading to polluted water and wrecked rivers have prompted a new book titled Water Quality and Ownership. Author Bill Benfield is a Christchurch architect and vineyard owner who, as a keen angler from an early age, has witnessed the progressive degradation of water quality in rivers and streams.

How has this happened? Benfield goes back to the Muldoon “think big” projects of the early 1980s that produced cheap nitrogen fertiliser from natural gas which enabled greater use of fertiliser.


The local government reforms of the 1980s, the Resource Management Act 1991, and intensified dairy farming combined to bring water discolouration that appeared in the 1990s and progressively worsened.

Bill Benfield discusses the impact of more intensive pastoral and dairy farming, forestry, concentrated animal feeding operations, and the rise of irrigation.

While dairying takes the blame, dirty urban catchments pose a bigger and less visible problem, especially with untreated storm water carrying rubbish from roads to rivers.

Add to this the toxic cocktail of herbicides used by regional councils to control weeds, fungicides, insecticides, and 1080, a metabolic poison that kills everything that uses oxygen.

The privatisation of “accretion” land between stop banks means that rivers are no longer permitted to flood over land between a river and a stop bank, turning rivers into flood channels, destroying habitats for fish and wading birds.

Excessive use of aquifer water means more seepage from rivers to aquifers, reducing the summer flow to zero, creating an ideal environment for the growth of toxic algae.

Fish and Game blamed cows and targeted dairy farmers, launching a programme of fencing rivers, but this is not the answer because it fails to address all the other parts of the equation, according to Benfield.

The give-away of pure aquifer or spring water for bottling and export requires a levy, Benfield writes.

On top of this comes demands from the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group for ownership of all river and lake beds, and the water column.

The iwi leaders’ demand for tribal participation at all levels of fresh water decision-making has partly come to fruition through the iwi participation clauses in amendments to the Resource Management Act in April of this year.

Any bid to limit private access to rivers, all for the benefit of Iwi Leader Group members, would reverse the public’s common law rights and send us back to medievalism, with the only way out being revolution, Benfield writes.

About 20 colour photos show before and after shots in case the reader has difficulty with visualisation.

This timely book written by a person on top of his subject, if a little under the influence of carbon reduction orthodoxy, is Benfield’s third, the others being The Third Wave: Poisoning the land and At War With Nature, both about 1080.

Water Quality and Ownership, W.F. Benfield, 92 pages, illustrated, Tross Publishing, $20

2 comments:

Seabird said...

If Benfield thinks he is "holier than thou" with his writing, he needs to be very careful as a vineyard owner, as here in Marlborough these people are some of the worst polluters, but most of this is swept under the carpet. Vineyards would be one of the most intensive land uses, and they use one heck of a lot of sprays, not to mention the arsenic pollution from the 500 plus treated posts per hectare, along with the many thousands of broken treated posts left lying around as there is no further use for them , and they cannot be burnt. Also, grape mark is a highly polluting material as well with a number of vineyards being prosecuted for illegal dumping of this product.

Ray S said...

Interesting article and with a valid comment from Seabird.
Revolution, bring it on. I believe it is the only way we will ever be 'one' country and those who will be the cause of it will have only themselves to blame.

A country does not come of age until it has either a revolution or civil war.