19th Century Thinking for the 21st Century?

I despair whenever I read an opinion piece like Alan Dick’s (Anti-dam campaign threat to progress 30/7/13). He attempts to paint a picture around the dam which is black our white. Either we have the dam or we don’t have progress. This is somewhat disingenuous as like many 19th century thinkers Alan Dick does not seem to have given much consideration to the alternatives.

He is correct in saying that the Tukituki needs to be fixed but omits to say that the reason the Tukituki is in trouble is due to mismanagement by councils past. Water take has been over allocated, discharges have been permitted unabated, and no restrictions within reason have been put on land use.

Plan change 6 will go a long way to addressing these issues but, and this is where the debate really starts, increasing intensified farming on the Ruataniwha Plains is not going to resolve these issues. Plan change 6 currently allows for huge increases in the amount of nitrogen in the Tukituki based on the premise that if you restrict the amount of Phosphorus then the amount of nitrogen doesn’t matter. The problem is the only way to stop Phosphorus entering the water way is by extensive riparian planting which is not only economically untenable but physically impossible. The council is in dream land if they think they have the solution.  This is the nub of the environmental argument.

So is there an alternative? If we look at improving production on the Ruataniwha Plains one of the issues is the amount of rainfall but another, just as important issue, is the free draining shallow soil. Basically this means that when it does rain the soil doesn’t hold the moisture as it could. The solution remains exactly what we do in our vege-gardens at home – building up the humus base. Apparently a 1% increase in humus confers 144,000 litres of extra water storage per hectare. Why is it again that we need to invest $80m in a dam?

And then there is the other demonstration of yesterdays thinking by Alan Dick. That the dam will lead to a bonanza of jobs.  Whilst this could well be the case, of the expected 630 new on farm jobs 83% are likely to be minimum wage and seasonal. Is this really the future we should be considering in Hawkes Bay? Fonterra has also admitted that any processing of milk will be done in Pahiatua, and Cedenco recently announced that they will be shifting their processing plant (along with 100 jobs) to Gisborne. Why should we be subsiding job creation schemes for other regions?

No doubt making such claims will bring howls of derision from supporters of the dam saying that such claims are unsubstantiated and Mr Bailey doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  This could well be true, but if we are spending $10m on studies supporting a $240m proposed dam surely some of that money could be invested in investigating true alternatives which could well prove to be more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable?

As far as I can tell, spending on reports that offer a viable alternative to the dam have not been considered a high priority this current council. I agree that the back bone of our economy is agriculture. However it is said the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I just don’t believe that reproducing on a grand scale the type of high input, commodity agriculture on which we currently focus is the right solution. We can, and should, focus on being the delicatessen to the world, not the supermarket to the world.  The people of Hawkes Bay understand this quality v quantity argument very well.  Why else would our weekly farmers be the largest in New Zealand?

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2 Responses to 19th Century Thinking for the 21st Century?

  1. ged says:

    I totally agree, grow the biodiversity to enhance the health of the soil to keep the land healthy, and the food that we eat nutritious. (oh, maybe a quick proof read before posting please Onya)

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