If the Greens and Labour want to be serious players in the water quality debate they may have to stop treating the public as gullible: Willy Leferink

If the Greens and Labour want to be serious players in the water quality debate they may have to stop treating the public as gullible: Willy Leferink
The Greens should show how it is to be done by making the Christchurch Avon River swimmable 24/7/365, says Willy Leferink

By Willy Leferink*

Having heard the arguments on talkback, online and in print, I imagine you are thinking, ‘how can you not want swimmable water’ and ‘it will make those polluting dairy farmers clean up their act.’

Of course every waterway on earth is affected by a dairy farm, just like a cow was on the grassy knoll in Dallas as JFK drove by.   

Given how zealous some can get about farmers, thankfully a minority based on surveys, they must rehearse their insults into a catechism.

But green or red isn’t the best colour for water. It is when you start to think about “swimmable” as a water quality standard, that one or two problems quickly emerge.

Somehow they will make every millimetre of New Zealand’s 425,000 kilometres fully swimmable. Not just in summer, no siree, but 24/7 and 365-days of the year.

When there are raging floods carrying sofas and goodness knows what else, rest assured, should you fall in it will miraculously meet swimming water quality.

On planet Green-Labour it will also be swimmable during climate induced low flow and yes, you’ll be able to swim in front of your town’s favourite sewerage outfall too.

As an aspiration I get it, but as a policy, why don’t we ban petrol and diesel?

Given water is affected by so many things it is bonkers to suggest that Green-Labour will stop decomposing pigeons and possums from washing into a creek.

This ranks up there with the defunct McGillicuddy Serious Party’s policy of better weather, so long as the voters are nice.

So here’s my challenge. 

Why don’t the Greens and Labour start with Christchurch’s Avon River as proof of concept?

Show us it is possible and affordable to make it fully swimmable 24/7.

I don’t fancy their chances since no one seems keen to take a dip in Lower Hutt’s nine kilometre Waiwhetu Stream, despite the $21 million spent to remove ‘almost mineable’ heavy metals.  

We know from lawa.org.nz that New Zealand’s water quality is generally good.

We also know most swimming spots monitored by regional councils when people swim are satisfactory too.

These facts haven’t stopped the Greens in their more florid moments from suggesting that touching some water will make you shrivel up. 

But hang on, why do we have a NZ Standard for public swimming pools, NZS5826, if Green-Labour can wave their policy wand over all rivers? 

This NZ Standard “addresses the essential aspects of the operation and maintenance of pools with a focus on pool water quality criteria including methods of water treatment to ensure the risk to public health is minimised.”

If humans are so pure why do we need to test and treat swimming pools?

How will the Greens ensure “the risk to public health is minimised” if everyone jumps into their local river instead of the local pool?

Given some rivers ‘bad’ for swimming may be ‘good’ for ecology, are Green-Labour seriously suggesting that we chlorinate every river or wetland and to hell with fishing and food gathering?

Questions like this emerge when you undertake policy by soundbite.

What they don’t want you to know is that any swimming site can be affected by heavy rain, which causes runoff.  Most shocking of all, many of our worst water sites are urban.

This makes sense given tarseal and concrete tends to concentrate all the toxic material and waste on the surface and eventually flows into creeks, streams and rivers, let alone what’s poured into them.

Our four million vehicles burn through 6.4 billion litres of fuel each year and it all has to go somewhere.

Yes cows do produce a lot more waste than humans but every human, on average, uses 56 percent more water than a cow.

Instead of gesture politics we must focus on the spots people use for swimming.  Whether town or country these must be our priority because we swim too.

While the cost of meeting the new National Policy Statement on Freshwater will be large, it is about keeping our best water that way and bringing our worst up.

Trying to make every river swimmable could do to us what building statutes did to Easter Island.

Just like poverty in New Zealand is markedly different from poverty in Chad, our poorest water quality is streets ahead of the best in many countries.

We can do better and are, but if the Greens (and Labour) want to be serious players they may have to stop treating the public as gullible.


Willy Leferink is the former national dairy chair of Federated Farmers and is a Mid-Canterbury dairy farmer. This article was first published in the Ashburton Guardian and is here with permission.

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.. where does one start to comment on something like this -  maybe just not bother.
I'm guessing it's a vain attempt to counter this -

It seems to be a classic attempt at finger pointing my kids try, "dont pick on me, sort him out first"  they are kids however, this is apparantly a grown man.

Rastus......photos that identify something you don't like the look of followed up by poor knowledge and opinion by the writers is propaganda......
Please recognise that some plants, algaes etc are needed in the water !!!!! Other species rely on them for their survivial......Greens and Labour are not being upfront and if the policies of the Greens is followed through we will make many species extinct.

Oh boy...
How to come across as a wacho, farmers cant half pick great reps.
Clearly the policy is targetted at farming caused pollution in the upper parts of rivers. 
Further just how much pollution is caused by urban or is it actually caused by industry?
fail to mention that eh?
Do you really think that the policy wont expect industry close to surburbia (or anywhere else for that matter) wont be required to clean up? (if it hasnt been already).
What on earth makes you think farmers deserve a free ride on disposal of effulent from a industrial process?

Just as two Wongs don't make a whitey, just because they are being bloody hypocrites doesn't give us dairy farmers the right to keep deliberately ignoring the effects of what we do.
I'd also point out that McGillicuddy Serious' main platform was the great leap backwards, they gave up when the realised they were being usurped by the main parties who implemented it in a much more efficient if less blatant manner. 
I think I might  be voting Green.

A bit of perspective
Earlier this year visited Akaroa, out on the Banks Peninsula. Didn't see any evidence of much farming. Steep surrounding countryside. Small rural village. Population 700. The eye-opener was the signs along the main street, attached to the fences above the creeks running down into the harbour, stating - do not swim in the harbour for two days after heavy rain - due to pollution - where was it coming from? Not farms.

Earthquakes have damaged the wastewater infrastructure.

When there are raging floods carrying sofas and goodness knows what else, rest assured, should you fall in it will miraculously meet swimming water quality.
Sofas .. an interesting choice for someone who is pointing out that someone else is channeling McGillicuddy. :-).

you do realise that the current greens co-leader(the female one in the expensive suits) was a former member of the McGillicuddy Serious Party?

and do you realise that ppl choose different ways to make statements? or jsut do things for fun?
guess not.

Hey have you seen her house. Very modest (no slight intented , I liked it)   To accuse her of wearing expensive suits is so ironic given that Judith Collins criticised her clothing in a manner that was like listening to a 14 yr old teenager.

Sofas, Canada geese, ducks, possums...I lived on water race (stock) water for a decade, with all this and more in it, and look how I turned out..urned out..rned out..ned out.
Oh, wait....

Waymad....I'm sure the latter group all popped out to poop ;-))
I remember the old water tanks and when some stoopid would be checking the water levels and forget to put the lid back on and the house water started tasting not soooo goood......and then ya find that a dead possum or bird has got in, maggots floating and all and ya have been drinking the stuff...........but  thankfully the invention of new  tanks with flags for water levels took all the histerical calls away.

Far as I can tell there is usually huge resistance to many big issues being addressed, mainly by interested parties.
Gettiing a good water standard in place thats enforcable, big data aside, seems to be politically distasteful but scientifically plausable.
Addressing the barkingly obvious issue of drinking, and alchohol accessablity, far to hard.
Getting traction on climate issues has been eye wateringly slow.
It all riminds me of the Tobacco spin of the last few decades.
Will we always be held captive to the material wants of a few big boys?

I don't see that using a little wit and irony should detract from the underlying message in Willys comments that green policy statement verge on the absurd if they are taken at face value. It's provable that the worst waterways are urban, can't possibly be cleaned up, and even the Greens have no policy to fix them to swim able levels because it can't be done. Rural waterways are being cleaned up pretty rapidly, but we are now into the election silly season and judging by the comments here, it works in driving out the urban vote from people least likely to ever swim in a river.
Wouldn't it be great if all these intense would-be river-swimmers actually walked out their driveway and turned right or left to go to their nearest river swimming hole, waded in with a bucket and took some water off to be analysed and worked out what it would cost to be fixed. For most it will be the Avon or the Tamaki but in any case they'd find that first, it is just about impossible without putting everyone back on bikes, and second, it would make the Christchurch rebuild to look cheap. They would then realise why Green policy doesn't match the sound bites, they are prepared to sacrifice water quality to economic growth, particularly if votes are involved. 
You don't see much lobbying to local councils to increase rates to improve local streams, but I know farmers who have spent literally millions on water quality, and done it willingly.

It isnt wit, its right wing dogma. Further, understanding the policy of the Green's and not taking it at a simplistic face value is obviously not something some ppl can do or dont want to.
Finally what has caused the urban pollution? probably mostly industry which like famring would need to clean up its act if that is the case.  If its historic and some of it will be, well it still needs cleaning up.

Willy as much as I am with you and believe we should focus on other water issues first before we get into this debate we are nowadays living in what is called a democracy.
With all it's faults and freedom.
There are simply not enough farmers and related interested parties to outvote those living in the burbs. And those living in the burbs are the ones who set the rules by sheer weight of numbers.
Those people do not want anything to happen in their back yard, it is not about the country or making sense. It is about their backyard. As filthy as it is someone else has to clean up theirs first. No change is allowed in the back yard, take the other suburb.
Farmers are easy pickings, there are so few of them the democratic process swamps them and it means that green/red does not have to tell their voters to start cleaning up their own yard first. As far as they are concerned it is a win/win without losing votes.
We all have to do our bit on this one. There may be more nitrates running into the water from farmland but all the chemicals, many rather toxic, coming from the people concentrations dwarfs this issue. From endocrine disruptors to anti microbial agents that keep building up and everything in between.
The ones that have bumper stickers along the lines of "clean up your act" are often the ones that throw rubbish out the window while driving. Along the lines of "not in my car".
Just like farmers can be fined for incorrect effluent disposal so should we come down hard on those who throw their rubbish out of the car window, drop chewing gum on the street or throw the cigarette butts away (for starters).

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