A case in point was a recent article by Rod Oram in the Sunday Star Times. Orams article thundered that we must show courage if –quote “we are to stand chance of using this precious resource sustainably.” As most of the “precious” fresh water currently flows out to sea, it is difficult to understand Orams assertion of our need for “sustainable” use. It would seem that he and others of his race believe in “sustainable waste” of this “precious” resource called fresh water by insisting that sustainable flows reach the coastal water to be totally lost for productive use.
NZ is a coastal country with vast unpolluted shore lines where recreational opportunity is unlimited. Most of us live within an hours drive to the sea or lake where fishing, boating, swimming is or can be enjoyed by the entire population.
Is it so unreasonable to use this most valuable of minerals (fresh water) for a productive use when alternatives are available for recreational use? NZs fresh water is to us what iron ore is to Australia. Would Australia refuse to mine iron ore for example to sustain its exports and add hugely to its GDP in the interests of those who enjoy seeing the so called natural world of Australia untouched? What benefit is there to our wider population in leaving vast resources un tapped in case somebody’s weekend recreation is threatened especially when they have other choices? We often hear that tourists love our clean green country. When was the last time a tourist bus stopped at a river so the tourists could picnic and swim in the water? It is nonsense to suggest that European visitors come to NZ to swim in a river. The Rhone River in France which appears to be of a similar size or bigger than the Clutha is unusable except for industrial purpose. Dead fish float down the river at regular intervals.
It is perfectly reasonable to require users of NZs fresh water to do so efficiently and effectively and make every effort not to pollute a nearby river or stream. The question arises as to what constitutes pollution from any given property if a large number of properties bound a river or stream, given the accumulative effect of all the properties.
Another question that is rarely asked is how many towns/cities still discharge waste water and or treated sewage directly into rivers, esturies or the ocean? Quite a lot I suspect yet curiously Fish and Game remain silent on this issue.
As NZ is the only first world country that is reliant on primary industry for its wealth - do we allow the potential of fresh water to go unused and continue to borrow our way to prosperity?
Surely we must prioritize the use of fresh water were possible. The National Governments Land and Water forum brought together 58; yes 58 organizations to try to find common ground upon which to build policy on. The word on the street is that Fish and Game threw all their toys out of the cot and threatened to leave the forum at the first meeting. Unfortunately their tantrum worked and they were appeased rather than sending them on their way with a hearty round of applause. All the Minister needed to do was to withdraw F and Gs privileged and protected monopoly position by de registering them and allow them to survive as all trade unions now must - but I digress.
The Land and Water Forum did not venture into Central Otago as the chair thought the meeting would be stacked with irrigators. They did however hold a meeting in Dunedin stacked with recreationalists which some how was acceptable to the Forum representatives. Readers may now start to understand where the selective Environmental Minister Nick Smith is heading. His is a “consensus” approach where the tradition user of water such as an irrigator is quite literally swamped by other stake holders into accepting their wants – but not needs.
This apparently will result in social harmony, a la the Scandinavian approach according to the Minister. He appears not to understand that Scandinavia has a powerful industrial base upon which their wealth is created. The same approach is being used in the Mackenzie basin to stop irrigation of what is to all intent and purpose -a vast waste land.
The real question is how we create the economic omelets with breaking one egg as the Minister seems to think we can do. My omelets would contain the following ingredients:
- A good helping of economic realism.
- A large dollop of investment in NZ irrigation by the NZ Superannuation fund.
- Mix well together and create storage for all uses
- Existing user investment in water must be treated as a property right
- Tradability between users in the catchment
- Private - public partnerships in investment in new storage and for electricity generation and recreational opportunity.
Will it work –Well it does already in Central Otago but then why should the bureaucrats follow a model that has served us so well for so long?