Alternatives to Managed Aquifer Recharge

Recently HBRC Councillor Martin Williams suggested that a committee be formed to consider strategic issues for Hawke’s Bay. Personally I don’t think this would be such a bad idea depending on what such a committee’s terms of reference would be. This is because we have many issues which would affect the strategic direction of each of our five separate councils, and we need to be thinking as one.

To my mind a case in point is that of rising nitrogen levels in our aquifers. Scientific studies have linked heightened nitrogen levels to bowel cancer, blue baby syndrome, and recently premature births. All of these health issues have been proven to occur at nitrogen levels far lower than the current drinking water standard of 11.3 mg/L used in New Zealand.

So why would a regional strategic committee be important in this case? If we consider the case of water security for Central Hawke’s Bay, and all it’s associated challenges that brings, we need to first look at what is happening currently. To put it simply the Ruataniwha Aquifer, for whatever reason, has been over-allocated. It also is well documented that there is insufficient water security for landowners, and that there are increasing nitrogen levels in the Ruataniwha Aquifer. On top of these issues we are also faced with the challenges presented by Climate Change.

Given that a handful of landowners use a majority of the water you do not have to be a rocket scientist to link past allocation practices ie allowing intensive dairying on the Ruataniwha Plains, with the challenges being faced in Central Hawke’s Bay today. Of course a solution offered in the past was the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, something which turned out in the long run to be an absolute lemon.

The solution being offered now is managed aquifer recharge. This may resolve the water security issues in the short term, but does it resolve the issue of rising nitrogen levels in the Ruataniwha Aquifer? Rising nitrogen levels can be linked back to (you guessed it) changes in land use ie intensive dairying over the last 20 years or so. Personally I don’t blame landowners for dairying on the Ruataniwha Plains. After all dairy conversions were allowed by the government at the time, encouraged by the banks, and facilitated by HBRC. They were simply following the rules.

The question for me is how do we turn land use around so that we no longer have to face the risk of poor health outcomes which are a consequence of increasing nitrogen levels? This is no longer just a question of the heath of our rivers. It has, or will soon become, a question of the health of our people regardless of what current drinking water standards are.

So this is where a strategic committee may be of some use. It was my experience that as a Councillor you spend so much time dealing with the day-to-day issues of running council that often you don’t get the time to sit back and consider the big picture. A strategic committee could well be the regions ‘think tank’ where some of the deeper issues are explored from all points of view before a particular pathway is invested in, both in terms of time and money.

And that’s what concerns me about the proposal to plow ahead with managed aquifer recharge for the Ruataniwha Aquifer. I believe that not enough thought has been put into all of the challenges faced on the Ruataniwha Plains, and why they have occurred. Perhaps stopping what is now known to be poor practice in the first place would be a better solution than some mechanical fix.

If we are going to spend $40m on managed aquifer recharge why not just buy out the intensive dairy units instead? That way the landowners in question are not financially disadvantaged, water security issues would be resolved, and we would see a real reduction in nitrogen leeching. With ever increasing compliance burdens I also believe this would be an attractive proposition for these landowners.

Once these farms have been converted to more sustainable systems they could then be sold. My guess would be that this would, in the long run, cost far less than managed aquifer recharge which is designed to maintain the status-quo and not to improve our environment. I have to admit though, that this is solution that would only be possible in Hawke’s Bay and could not be used in say Canterbury where that numbers and challenges involved are just mind boggling compared to those that we face.

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Maori Wards for Napier City Council

Since the removal of the requirement to have a referendum on the creation of Maori Wards it has been heartening to see the number of councils around the county who have instigated Maori Wards in their jurisdictions.

However some councils have not taken the opportunity to create Maori Wards in time for the 2022 local body elections claiming in most instances that further consultation is required. Napier City Council is a case in point.

Although I can understand the reluctance of NCC to take this step I believe they will end up on the wrong side of history because of their decision. I’m not sure if this was due to advice from staff around timing, or because they did not have the courage to take this step immediately as many other councils around the country have done. I’d like to think the former rather than the later.

Personally I’ve viewed the issue of partnership with Maori as being similar to that which I’ve had with my life partner. I’d be a fool to make major decisions without first discussing the issues and reaching a compromise on a way forward. That’s how partnerships work, and given the number of successful marriages out there it’s clear that improving partnerships with Maori is nothing to be afraid of.

So whilst I’m frustrated that NCC was unable to make a decision in time for the 2022 election I’m looking forward to a positive outcome for the 2025 election. It’s high time NCC took this important step in meeting their Te Tiriti obligations and took Maori partnership to the next level.

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GDP is not the answer

In making the argument that GDP is the only measurement of success Dr Dennis Wesselbaum claims “economic policies should target sustainable production and creating jobs in the sectors of the future” (Degrowth isn’t the answer 30/3/31). GDP is simply a measure of the final value of the goods and services produced within the geographic boundaries of a country during a specified period of time Unfortunately for Dr Wesselbaum GDP does not measure the costs of environmental degradation or the consequences of inequality.



His argument that the government should focus on GDP, and not wellbeing, would be a huge step backwards for the future of New Zealand. I am tired of having to pay to clean up our rivers and lakes. I am tired of having to pay for the health, crime, and housing consequences of inequality. Increasing GDP has not solved these issues in the past, why would it do so in the future? I’d much rather money be spent at the top of the cliff resolving these issues rather than spending ever increasing amounts on the ambulance at the bottom. We need to think of success less in terms of the final value of the goods and services produced and more in terms of the state of our environment and wellbeing of our people.

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Cracking down on gangs not the only solution – Letter to editor

Whilst I agree with David Elliott that gangs have again become more problematic in Hawke’s Bay (Right or wrong gang strategy needs to change 9/3/21) I think he misses one obvious solution to depowering the gangs. I agree that money invested into our youth will pay long term dividends but this is a very challenging long term solution. If it were easy similar initiatives in the past would have worked. But how about taking away the gangs ability to make money as well, and thereby becoming a less attractive alternative for their recruits, by decriminalising drugs?

I think it is unfortunate that National seemed so mired in anti-drug rhetoric during the recent cannabis referendum that they couldn’t see the wood for the trees. It would be very difficult for gangs to drive around in late model cars and ride Harley Davidson motorcycles if they didn’t have the income to buy them in the first place. Decriminalisation would be a quick fix and go a long way to sorting out the gangs turf wars over drug markets, something which I believe their recent behaviour is a consequence of.

As for ‘cracking down’ on gangs, both Labour and National have promised to do so over many decades yet the problem of gangs is still with us. Given that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results perhaps we should be looking at every tool in the tool box and not just those that make good sound bites.

Submitted 9/3/21

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An Amusing Argument – Letter to HB Today

I could not help but be amused by Keith Dolman’s Talking Point (Rating changes threaten viability of investment 21/1/20) where he claims that making forestry companies pay an appropriate share of roading costs in Wairoa, along with increased regulatory costs, is going to be the reason investment in forestry is stifled and that the “industry as we know it may fade away”.

Amongst other things forestry’s poor Health and Safety track record, and the costs imposed on local councils due to the poor management of slash, mean that the forestry industry only has itself to blame for losing it’s social licence to operate as it has abused the privileges offered by operating in a free market. Society has grown tired of having to clean up the mess created by others’ poor practices.

As for the profitability of forests Mr Dolman’s acknowledgement that “the reality is that we offer a low-value high volume product” is perhaps at the core of forestry’s long term issues, not regulatory costs or a move to user pays indicated in the shift in rating policy
by Wairoa District Council. Because forestry investment decisions are based on discounted future earnings perhaps it is time the industry started thinking more along the lines of high-value low volume products which can be value added locally instead of focusing on unprocessed raw log exports.

I agree with Mr Dolman that forestry offers many benefits to the wider community such as carbon sequestration and sediment control, but there needs to be an acknowledgement that the right trees need to be planted in the right place. It’s about time the wholesale planting of pinus radiata was rethought.

Published 28/01/21

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Terror bombings in NZ


Letter to editor published 20/01/21

I think it’s sad that John McCormick does not consider the Rainbow
Warrior or Trades Hall bombing to be acts of terrorism (Terror against Kiwis 19/1/21). Both these events would meet any logical definition of a terror attack and should not be forgotten, either by us or our ‘security force’ leaders.


Unfortunately I had forgotten to mention the Wanganui Computer Centre bombings which took place in 1982

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Can HB Today remain relevant?

I submitted the following to HB Today on 12/01/21:

In your editorial of 12 January (Power to muzzle the chief tweeter) you rightly state “social media allows people to live in their own newsfeed, shutting out contrary viewpoints”. So the question is how do we counter this?


Perhaps Hawke’s Bay Today could make a start by encouraging debate on local issues through your pages. Of late the publication of letters to the editor and talking points on local issues have been intermittent to say the least. Many people I speak to have been disappointed by this as they appreciated hearing all different points of view about local issues of the day.


As a newspaper you have the right to publish or not to publish. You have, for many years, not accepted anonymous contributions. This means that readers can become familiar with your regular contributors and quickly discern who has rational arguments, and who hasn’t.


So in countering the influence of social media I would implore Hawke’s Bay Today to be more prepared to allow debate of local issues through your letters to the editor and talking points. Make it worthwhile for readers to subscribe, or pick up a copy at the dairy. Become the conduit for debate that you have been in the past. At present it feels exactly the opposite.

This elicited a response from the editor as follows:

Fair enough. So I did a quick analysis of letters to the editor and talking points for November 2020 and replied accordingly:

OK, so I then sent version 3, which was published 21/01/21:

So I suppose the lesson here is one of persistence. I got my point across in a way which did not offend the editor yet at the same time opened up HB Today to encourage healthy debate.

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Where too for Napier City Council?

There seems to be a common misunderstanding that a 1 in 250 year flood will only happen every 250 years. This is not the case. It simply means that the probability of a similar event happening next year is 0.04% (1 divided by 250). So because Monday’s weather bomb in Napier was a 1 in 250 year event there is still a 0.04% chance that it will happen next year. Because of climate change the frequency and intensity of such weather bombs is going to increase and we need to start getting our heads around what we want NCC to do.

This is the reality facing Napier City Council infrastructure managers and us as rate payers. Do they spend hundreds of millions of dollars protecting the city from floods? Do they maintain the status-quo and just accept that flooding is going to happen? Do they admit that no amount of money is going to stop the flooding and perhaps we abandon the worst effected parts of the city in much the same way as Christchurch did with their ‘red-zone’? Or is there some other solution?

Lower Emmerson Street after the floods
Lower Emmerson Street after the floods


Who knows what NCC are thinking, but the place to look for answers will be in next years Long Term Plan. This will give us a much better idea of what councils thoughts are on this issue. For too long NCC has stuck it’s collective head in the sand over this issue but I remain positive that under Mayor Wise and her team, some sort of action will be taken. It’s about time.

Letter submitted to HB Today 15/11/20

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Time to ban burn-offs

Rex Graham and I became friends over the course of the last term of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. However that should not stop me being critical of some actions HBRC has, or hasn’t, taken this term. Rex’s ongoing comments about orchard and vineyard burn-offs are quite right. Those who undertake the practice are not good corporate citizens.

I accept that under certain conditions burn-offs are permitted under the Regional Resource Management Plan. My criticism of Rex’s comments to date are that he offers no regulatory solution. In much the same way as HBRC is proposing a fast track amendment to Plan Change 6 to allow more nitrogen to be applied on farms than what is currently permitted, HBRC could easily undertake a fast track amendment to the RRMP to ban burn-offs before next season.

The thing that allows such a ban to be pragmatic is that there is an alternative to burn-offs. As this paper has reported there are mega mulchers available in Hawke’s Bay that can achieve the same result. So what’s stopping HBRC from getting on with an amendment? Is it because the request didn’t come from Federated Farmers and that the health of the public is not as important as pandering to a lobby group as happened with respect to the Plan Change 6 amendment? It’s time HBRC started getting imaginative in finding solutions to challenges that affect us all. Besides we’ve all had to replace our fireplaces due to a tightening of regulations, why can’t HBRC do the same with respect to burn-offs?

Talking Point HB Today 17/6/20
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Do it once, Do it right – Questioning the proposed changes to Plan Change 6

Yet again the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is looking at tinkering with Plan Change 6 and following rushed process to do so. At question is how on-farm nitrogen limits in the Tukituki catchment are being managed. Following a request from Federated Farmers HBRC is looking at increasing the amount of nitrogen that can be applied by between 40% and 70% , depending on land type, over what is currently allowed under Plan Change 6 even though landowners have had 5 years to come to grips with the challenge of meeting current limits.

Proposed Table 5.9.1D

I acknowledge that the amendment was requested due to the most current version of Overseer giving different results than the version that was used when Plan Change 6 was initially decided upon by the Board of Inquiry. However, Overseer will continue to evolve, and future updates may well change the numbers yet again. Does Federated Farmers expect Plan Change 6 to be amended each time a new version of Overseer is released? If not, why the focus on this particular iteration?

HBRC claim that the amendment is required to “maintain the trust and confidence of the Tukituki farming community” and that it will “enable them to adhere to the rules”. Yes, an amendment would achieve those aims but when did it become best practice to change the rules simply because 112 farms out of 1200 in the catchment are finding them difficult to adhere too? In addition the number of affected farms was provided by Federated Farmers, and there is no indication that this number has been fact checked by HBRC.

HBRC staff have acknowledged that Plan Change 6 is fundamentally flawed because there is no direct link between the numbers in the on-farm nitrogen limits and the limit set for nitrogen levels in the Tukituki. I would be happy if HBRC were to suggest a plan change that enabled these numbers to be connected. This would go a long way to making Plan Change 6 more workable and give much more confidence that consents to farm will achieve the goal of improving environmental outcomes for the Tukituki.  But this is not what is being done here.

Instead we have a small minority of farmers who are finding it impossible to work within legally binding nitrogen application limits. I had suspected that it was a small number of farmers who were causing most of the environmental damage to the Tukituki and this is proof of that. We should also keep in the back of our minds that allowing a continuation of current nitrogen application rates by making this amendment does nothing to resolve the issue of increasing nitrogen levels in the Ruataniwha Aquifer, or water security issues for the communities of Ongaonga and Tikikino.

And then there is the issue of HBRC proceeding to spend ratepayer’s money advancing the amendment without authorisation from the Regional Planning Committee. At it’s meeting on 18th March the only direction the RPC gave staff was “to proceed to undertake preliminary consultation on a possible Plan Change to recalibrate the nitrogen figures in Table 5.9.1D” Yet the RPC agenda of 3rd June includes a Section 32 report for the proposed amendment. A Section 32 is a substantial body of work and not cheap to produce.  Also, the agenda does not include an analysis of the requested consultation when it is clear that the RPC wanted to see this before making a decision to proceed with the amendment.

Decision from RPC minutes of 18 March 2020

I was always taught do it once, do it right and it seems to me the HBRC are offering very disjointed solutions to the challenges facing Central Hawkes Bay. Were do all the pieces of the puzzle fit? Farm Environmental Managements Plans were supposed to offer up a lot of answers to this question however if one of the key variables used to produce the FEMPs is changed how much reliance can we put in the FEMPs that have been produced already at great expense? Does the proposed amendment mean that FEMPs must be revisited? The agenda papers are silent on this issue.

You would have thought that HBRC would have learnt some lessons from the debacle which was the attempt to delay the introduction of minimum flows for the Tukituki by two years and from the public pushback experienced by Napier City Council in recent years over slipshod processes. An amendment to a plan change may not be as exciting as a war memorial or a swimming pool but it is just as significant. I think we deserve processes to be providing good value for money. If we have to go to the expense of an amendment to Plan Change 6 then fix the fundamental flaws at the same time and not just tinker around the edges. Do it once, do it right.

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Yet another shoddy consultation process

Yet again the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is looking at tinkering with Plan Change 6 and following poor process to do so. At question is how on farm nitrogen limits in the Tukituki catchment are being managed. Following a request from Federated Farmers HBRC is looking at increasing the amount of nitrogen that can be applied by between 40% and 70% , depending on land type, over what is currently allowed under Plan Change 6 even though landowners have had 5 years to come to grips with the challenge of meeting current limits. If members of Federated Farmers are unable to meet the requirements of Plan Change 6 then surely they should have requested a private plan change at their cost, rather than at the ratepayers expense.

Proposed Table – Par 20 from RPC agenda 3 June 2020

HBRC claim that the amendment is required to “maintain the trust and confidence of the Tukituki farming community” and that it will “enable them to adhere to the rules”. Yes, an amendment would achieve those aims but when did it become best practice to change the rules simply because they are difficult to achieve? I acknowledge that there is no direct link between the numbers in the on-farm nitrogen limits and the limits and targets set for nitrogen levels in the Tukituki. I would be happy if HBRC were to suggest a plan change that enabled these numbers to be connected. But this is not what is being done here.

Par 2 from RPC agenda 18 March 2020

The government and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment both recognise the challenges of using Overseer as a regulatory tool and the government is currently working through a review intended to make it more fit for purpose. Fair enough, but why is HBRC not waiting for this review to be completed before ploughing ahead with an amendment to Plan Change 6? Surely basing decisions on a tool which is suspect is suspect itself.

And then there is the issue of HBRC proceeding to spend ratepayer’s money advancing the amendment without authorisation from the Regional Planning Committee. At it’s meeting on 18th March the only direction the RPC gave staff was “to proceed to undertake preliminary consultation on a possible Plan Change to recalibrate the nitrogen figures in Table 5.9.1D” Yet the RPC agenda of 3rd June includes a Section 32 report for the proposed amendment. A Section 32 is a substantial body of work and not cheap to produce.  Also, the agenda does not include an analysis of the requested consultation undertaken when it is clear that the RPC wanted to see this before making a decision to proceed with the amendment.

Decision made by RPC 18 March 2020

But of more serious concern is who has been consulted. Fair enough that the Ministers for the Environment, Conservation, and Primary Industries, relevant local authorities, Iwi authorities of the Tukituki Catchment, regional farming representative organisations, and Tukituki Leaders Forum were consulted. I would have expected them to have been.

Who’s been consulted – RPC agenda 3 June 2020

However, it is a mystery to me that missing from the list are Fish & Game, Forest & Bird, and Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc. As all of these organisations have been outspoken at one time or another about nitrogen management in the Tukituki catchment, why has HBRC not actively sought their views nor support? One is left wondering why this is given that the cost of undertaking an amendment to Plan Change 6 is directly proportional to the amount of opposition to it. If you only seek the views of those that are likely to support the amendment, then of course the picture you are going to get from consultation is rosy.

Evaluation of risks – Par 22 from RPC agenda 3 June 2020

You would have thought that HBRC would have learnt some lessons from the debacle which was the attempt to delay the introduction of minimum flows for the Tukituki by two years and from the public push back experienced by Napier City Council in recent years over slipshod consultative processes. I believe that HBRC is not only setting themselves up for legal challenges on the amendment itself, but potentially a judicial review on the processes they have demonstrated to date. Hardly a move to engender the publics trust and confidence in them as an organisation.

An amendment to a plan change may not be as exciting as a war memorial or a swimming pool but it is just as significant. I think we deserve processes to be run fairly, and not simply used to arrive at predetermined outcomes. It is time HBRC put a halt on proceeding awaiting the outcome of the governments review of Overseer and then undertakes genuine consultation if an amendment is still deemed necessary.

PS: Since posting this article it has come to my attention that both Forest & Bird and Fish & Game were in fact consulted on the proposed amendment. This reinforces for me how rushed this process has been given that such important information was missed in the agenda papers.

I have rewritten the blog accordingly. See “Do it once do it right – Questioning the proposed changes to Plan Change 6”

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Solution to dangerous levels of Nitrogen in Ruataniwha Basin

The recent announcement that nitrogen levels in the Ruataniwha Aquifer are high enough to pose a danger to public health bring into focus the challenges faced by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council over water quality and security. I think that there is an acknowledgement by everyone that the solutions are not going to be quick, nor easy. That is why I am concerned that HBRC continues to proceed with the Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) feasibility study without seeming to take look at the bigger picture.

Rex Graham is correct when he said that “there is a huge legacy issue in Central Hawke’s Bay caused by unsustainable farming practices over the last 100 years, particularly intensive livestock farming enabled by irrigation on soils prone to leaching nitrogen”. I do not blame landowners as they were only taking advantage of the opportunities which were available to them. Government encouraged, HBRC facilitated, and bankers enabled massive land use change in the Ruataniwha basin. But rather than dwelling on the past we should be focusing on the solutions that give us the biggest bang for bucks.

Rex Graham

HBRC Chair Rex Graham

It makes sense to consider the bigger picture when looking for solutions to water quality and security. MAR may resolve water security issues but does nothing to improve water quality issues as it simply allows a continuation of the status quo. When we have six landowners controlling over 60% of the water from the Ruataniwha aquifer, and those six are all dairy farms, perhaps it is time to start thinking outside the box a little.

The relationship between dairying and nitrogen is well known and I agree that it is challenging for these farms to get their nitrogen leaching numbers down to levels which enable them to meet their legal obligations under the Plan Change 6 rules. In fact, I would say that it is going to be impossible for them to do so without a major change in land use. In other words, moving away from intensive dairying on stony permeable soils. Farming by hydroponics is simply unsustainable.

nitrogen-768x432
By changing to far less water intensive farming systems it is likely that sufficient water take would become available so that the rest of the farms in the Ruataniwha basin would not be subject to anywhere near the same restrictions that they now face, the communities in Onga Onga and Tikikino would not find that their long standing bores continue to become ‘inefficient’, there would be far less nitrogen entering the system in the first place, and other more environmentally sustainable farming systems would be able to flourish in CHB. A win-win if ever I have seen one. We should be looking at our water resource with a view to what is the best use of that water for the wider community.

But I understand the pressure that the six are under. I have no idea what their balance sheets look like but there is a good chance they are sitting on a pile of debt. This puts them under financial pressure from their banks to maintain volume (which is daft because it is profitability which is the key) whilst at the same time they are coming under regulatory pressure to decrease nitrogen leaching. Either they reduce stocking numbers voluntarily, or their bankers are going to realise that they are financing a business which is untenable and they will eventually be forced to sell.

Banks
Which brings me back to outside the box solutions and the elephant in the room which no one seems to want to talk about. Instead of ‘investing’ millions on MAR why not just buy out some or all the six, convert them to a more sustainable land use, and then sell them? It frees up their water to be used by everyone else and decreases the nitrogen load. It goes a long way to solving quality and security issues for potentially the same dollars as a solution that only goes half-way. I think it would be a great idea for HBRC to spend some time looking at the pros and cons of this as a solution before proceeding further down the MAR road.

Finally, given that HBRC has now acknowledged that nitrogen levels are reaching dangerous levels I’m also left wondering if they are at long last going to review all of the water takes from the Ruataniwha aquifer on the basis that they have caused ‘adverse environmental effects’. I think it is high time such an avenue was tested by HBRC rather than continuing to sit on their hands. After all, if we have learnt nothing from the COVID-19 emergency, it is that human health takes priority.

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Fresh Water Reforms Don’t Need To Be Dumped

Lawrence Yule makes a good point in that the government could be doing more to assist our farming community through the current drought. (Farmers getting a raw deal 11/5/20) I agree that the announced package of assisting with feed-budgeting and more funding for the Rural Support Trust is simply not enough.

To my mind the drought will have an even more significant hit on our farming community than COVID-19. They need both immediate help and long-term assistance. I think Lawrence and I would agree on this point. However, where we disagree is what that help, and assistance looks like. This is because I see the drought as being a consequence of the effects of climate change.

We are all aware that climate change is going to lead to drought conditions being more frequent on the East Coast so any assistance that is offered should not only deal with the immediate crisis but also the long term outlook. Solutions should also have positive environmental outcomes.

I do not personally blame each and any every farmer for the current state of our water ways. After all this was an outcome of government regulation, pressure from banks, and how our agriculture graduates are educated to think of greater production equaling greater profit. Individual farmers were simply making decisions based on what they knew and what they were being told. Fair enough. But something must change.

So what assistance should the government be giving to our farmers? Short-term I agree that they should be subsidising feed to some extent. Specially to maintain capital stock. I also believe that farmers should be entitled to some sort of short-term income support in much the same way as the government is supporting commerce. What I do not think government should be doing is subsidising the status-quo. Let’s not let a good crisis go to waste.

Long-term we need freshwater reform, and we need to build resilience to drought. Whilst small scale off river water storage schemes maybe viable, grandiose mega schemes have past their used by date. We need farmers to look over the fence at those who were least effected by the drought and ask what are they doing differently? That is why I’m worried about HBRC’s proposal to have managed aquifer recharge. It simply maintains the status-quo rather than reforming farming practices.

But change costs. We all benefit from a resilient farming community. After all it is why I can have steak egg and chips for dinner. So, if it were up to me, I would be happy to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming systems. Not by delaying the regulations, but by helping farmers meet the cost of complying with them. If that means employing people to grow and plant trees and undertake weed control, then let us do that.

We should not forget that Plan Change 6 for the Tukituki catchment and the TANK Plan Change for Heretaunga mean that many Hawke’s Bay farmers are already, or will soon be, subject to many of the requirements of the government’s proposed freshwater reforms. Farmers in the Tukituki catchment have already been through the farm environmental plan process and some are now having to meet long planned for consent requirements. Fresh water reform is nothing new for them and personally I struggle to see what Lawrence’s angst is.

If a farm is unable to get it’s nitrogen leaching levels down to a prescribed level that protects our water ways and aquifers then they are not counting their true costs of their business. So, there will be those that will be unable to undertake the transition and go out of business. I acknowledge that. After all it is the way that capitalism works. If regulation does nothing more that ensure that the cost of farming will in future also reflect the true cost to the environment of the way that things are done, I do not see that as such a bad thing.

Finally, I agree with Lawrence that most farmers love their land, and the community that they live in. However, as is often the case in any community it is the few that give the many a bad name.

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New Water Bottling Plant in Hawke’s Bay – No Way

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s policy making consents for water bottling plants publicly notifiable came up for discussion by request of Apollo Foods last week. If we come back to the question of why a corporation was able to get HBRC to expend time and resources on debating this issue when they have other more pressing issues at present, there were two other important questions raised.

Firstly, HBRC’s policy currently defines water bottling as “taking and using water for bottling in bottles, bladders or other containers for human consumption, where the water taken makes up at least 90% content of the container”. I agree that at the time the policy was formulated the trigger of 90% content was somewhat arbitrary and could be reviewed if there is good evidence to justify doing so. This is what is being done. I just hope that the analysis is robust enough to provide the public with enough confidence that it is correct.

Secondly one councillor claimed that the policy itself had served it’s purpose and reached it’s used by day. This demonstrates a complete inability to ‘read the room’ and flies in the face of the public’s ongoing concerns about water bottling plants. I hope that Clr Williams takes some time to reconsider this view and recognise that by forcing Apollo Fruit to approach HBRC and ask them to change the policy proves that the policy is working just fine thank you.

That there have been a number of inquiries since the introduction of the policy, none of which have actually proceed to a consent application also proves just how well the policy is working. No new water bottling plants have been approved in Hawke’s Bay since the introduction of the policy in 2016. Having a public notification policy does not stop potential water bottlers making a consent application but it is clear having to go through the public notification process has been a step too far for them. Hooray for that.

What was not discussed during the debate was the wider implications of water bottling on our economy. To put it bluntly water bottling is the low hanging fruit of water use. Water is a limited resource and we need to ensure that we can extract maximum value for Hawke’s Bay from every litre. This is where the RMA is out of kilter with current thinking. Simply processing applications on a first come first served basis with no consideration given to the long-term implications of the use of the resource has proved to a short sighted. And this is where I come back to Apollo Fruit getting face time with council and request a change in policy when other businesses or groups are unable to do so.

It would be dangerous to change the public notification policy simply at the behest of one company. It would open the door to anyone else doing the same whilst also allowing a flood of current consent holders to change their approved purpose for water take without any public input. HBRC has gone a long way in rebuilding its relationship with tangata whenua and it was pleasing to see that this issue is going to be put before the Regional Planning Committee for their recommendation. If the RPC recommends that the policy remains unchanged, I just hope that Councillors bind themselves to that recommendation and do not make an independent decision which overrides it. The future of resource planning in Hawke’s Bay is far too important to put at risk simply for any perceived short-term gain to come from allowing more water bottling plants in Hawke’s Bay.

It should also be of concern that whilst dealing with the economic fallout from the drought and COVID-19 HBRC is spending time and resource to deal with this issue. Surely they have more important things to do, something which should have been put to bed straight away by staff by pointing to the policy and saying that it is what it is and we are not going to waste time right now dealing with it. After all Apollo Fruit’s consent was only recently rolled over (without a request for water bottling) so one is left wondering what has changed in such a short space of time that they are prepared to buy into this now very public debate and loose some of their social license to operate. Apollo Fruit needs to accept that consents for water bottling plants are publicly notifiable and just get over it.

Submitted as a Talking Point 4/5/20

Posted in HB Today, Letters to Editor, Uncategorized, Water, Water Bottling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

List Rank Debacle 2020

Yesterdays article about the Left Greens network sending an email to its members with a suggestion of how to vote in the Green Party’s list ranking process has got me thinking (Left-wing Green faction wants to axe co-leader James Shaw, and Eugenie Sage and Chlöe Swarbrick – Stuff 24/4/20). I see nothing wrong with networks discussing among themselves which candidates reflect their values. I do not even have a problem with networks distributing their appraisal of candidates as seen through their own lens. All that is fine by me. Where I have a problem is that the email listed candidates as an example of how to vote.

As far as I am concerned it is this step that goes against Green Kaupapa. There is even a section in the candidate booklet called The Philosophy of the Green Party List Ranking which sets out what members should be considering when casting their ballot. It is clear from this philosophy that members should consider that the rankings should be made with a view to “having high-ranking candidates that Green-considering voters can relate to – people ‘like them’”. There is nothing sinister in asking members to take this into consideration. It is simply political pragmatism.

I haven’t personally seen the email sent to Left Green members but the article states that Co-Leader James Shaw and MPs Eugenie Sage and Chloe Swarbrick have been placed in what is likely to be unelectable positions. One must wonder about the political naivety of the Left Greens executive, who be all accounts were responsible for generating the list in question, in essentially being willing to dump three good performing MPs. Did they imagine for one second that not having James Shaw as either 1 or 2 on the list was not going to have severe electoral consequences?

It is this naivety which is so frustrating to me. Here I am busting my arse to get more Greens in parliament and a network decides that we should instead commit political suicide. This leads to the question, why they would make such a recommendation in the first place? Why James, Eugenie and Chloe? Perhaps it was all just a silly mistake although going on the past behavior of the Left Greens it does not take a great leap in imagination to think that there is something Machiavellian going on here.

Mach

All one has to do is look at the names on the initial list, the position that they are in, weather they have influence in the Left Greens network, and how ambitious they are to take control of the party and turn it into a creature of the radical left. What I am talking about of course is motivation and opportunity. There is only one name that fits all these criteria. I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to who I think is the culprit but there is a real danger in letting someone with such ambitions anywhere near an electable position.

We’ve been in this position before. Where candidates’ personal ambitions got in the way of the good of the party as a whole and this, I think is yet another example of that. We have managed these things in the past and will no doubt have to do so in the future but one individual is not worth the future of the party so it is time knives came out or someone fell on their sword.

Firefox_Screenshot_2020-04-24T00-32-33.532Z

My personal vote on the 2020 – Submitted before the article was published

 

Posted in Green Party, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment