Have all boxes been ticked? – Letter to editor HB Today

Yet again federated farmers misses the point entirely. Will Foley states that the dam will only go ahead if “all the boxes are ticked”. But what boxes does he want to see ticked? Does it stack up financially for those investing in it, whether farmers will buy the water, and finally whether the environment will be improved. Why has he not included: will the dam lead to an improvement in social equality as one of his boxes?

If the dam was stacking up for farmers why have only 40 odd signed the no obligation expression of interest? If it was such a great idea I would have thought farmers would be falling over themselves to give an indication to HBRIC that the schemes a goer.  Perhaps they are cleverer than what we give them credit for. Without farmer buy in there is no way that the scheme will stack up financially for investors.

I still fail to see how increasing nitrogen levels in the Tukituki will maintain or improve the river. No amount of riparian planting will totally stop the other side of the chemical coin, phosphorus, from entering the river. What about the waterways that won’t be planted? There is also the challenge of ensuring every farmer abides by best practice. Remind me again how many times did Fonterra stop picking up milk from the Crafers? In my opinion some corporate farmers are prepared to wear a small fine if it means increased production.

Which brings me to social inequality. It is expected that there will be a 70% turnover of land ownership if the dam progresses. Will these farms be brought by our traditional family farmers? I don’t think so. All I see is an increase in corporate farming, mostly dairying. As an industry dairying is having trouble attracting staff as share-milking declines in importance and is replaced by farm mangers. This has lead to a predominance of cheep, imported, transient labour in Southland and Canterbury. Is this really the type of society we wish to promote? Why should we let a few corporate farmers make huge capital gains at ratepayers risk? Let’s not forget it is our $80 million that is also at risk here. Is it really worth it?

Submitted 19 Aug 13

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