Anyone affected by water policy here in Hawke’s Bay — and that’s all of us! — should reflect on this recent series of headlines from the Manawatu Standard, where the two most senior staffers responsible for water quality have recently resigned … (better still, click and read the articles)
River battler quits council (“The man at the forefront of the battle against people polluting the region’s waterways has quit Horizons Regional Council at the height of public debate over the state of the Manawatu River.”)
Editorial: Departure is reason for alarm (“The fate of the river doesn’t rest with one man, but the departure of Mr Carlyon doesn’t exactly give rise to hope that the health of the river will soon improve. The Manawatu River Accord is in trouble. It has been undermined by both the city and regional councils.”)
Horizons losing its way (Said the former top enforcement officer, Greg Carlyon: “It’s a massive challenge to have industry, farming and urban population and have a clean river … It’s one that the politicians won’t go near. Can we have environment and economy? At some scale, yes you can, some cockies have it. But the science is there that our current practices will not deliver both.”
Horizons accused of losing nerve (said also resigned water quality and biodiversity manager Alistair Beveridge: “We are on the brink of setting the region up as an example to other regional councils and we seem to have lost our courage to lead and make the hard decisions … I think the council is misreading the concern the community has for water quality … No-one is asking the community what it wants and what it holds important and how much it is prepared to pay for it.”
The DomPost summed up this protest in an excellent article …
River health waits on brave leaders (Quoting Carlyon: “…what they’re about is trying to reconcile whether we can have our cake and eat it too – protect and sustain our environment and grow the economy. And it’s politically easy to say ‘yes, we can have that’ when I don’t see evidence that demonstrates it is possible. The reality is that we’re consuming natural capital, which is the cheapest resource we’ll ever have, at a rate that we won’t be able to draw down in the future.”
What’s the relevance of all this to Hawke’s Bay and our Regional Council?
1. Our Regional Council faces the same pressures in every major river catchment in the Bay, and is responding in slow motion, desperate to appease economic interests along the way. Letting dairy farmers (Taharua/Mohaka Rivers); a major corporate, AFFCO (Wairoa River); and a local council, CHB (Tukituki River) get away with gross pollution along the way.
2. HBRC’s top enforcement officer recently resigned, presumably to advance his career overseas. As simple as that?
3. His replacement is Iain Maxwell, a former HB regional manager for Fish & Game. With no previous council experience, he takes his position in early November, in the midst of numerous pending water policy decisions that will weigh environmental against economic impacts.
Despite Maxwell’s Fish & Game background, local conservationists are wary of the appointment. Clearly he will need to prove his backbone in protecting environmental standards against the strong predisposition at HBRC at the Councillor and CEO level to cater to economic interests. Let’s hope he will prove to be a champion of the sound — and cautionary — science that occasionally surfaces from the staff he inherits.
For all the ostensible stakeholders’ ‘consensus’ that HBRC seeks to engineer, hugely important value choices loom ahead for the public to make. As the DomPost reports of jobless Greg Carlyon:
“A common view he hears behind closed doors is that the country should accept a degradation of water quality so the economy can grow. ‘Naturally, I don’t accept that, but it is a fair and reasonable proposition. I just wish those parties would say that out loud to the community so we as a society can confront the issue. But that courage doesn’t exist once the doors are open’.”
Amen! Watch this space.
P.S. Mark your calendar for a 9 November, 7pm Water Forum that BayBuzz and others are sponsoring at Lindisfarne College. Diverse viewpoints. Details to follow.