That headline, referring to Hawke’s Bay’s Mohaka River, ran on the top of the front page of yesterday’s (August 6) Dominion Post, with a massive photo.
[The top headline in the corresponding Hawke’s Bay Today, our deeply inquiring local advertising medium, was “Bay’s Super 15 bid scuttled.” But HBT’s priorities are another matter for a future post. Hey, I’m a rugby fan, and I’d love to see the HB Rugby Union succeed in a bid. But c’mon … the top story?!]
Back to the Mohaka. As BayBuzz reported earlier this week, the Mohaka is really getting stuffed since intensive dairy farming began along its Taharua River tributary.
So, Kathy Webb’s front-page Death of a waterway story greeted participants in last night’s water briefing sponsored by Irrigation NZ, attended by about 200 citizens and public officials.
But unless I missed it, and I was listening pretty carefully, the word “Mohaka” was never actually mentioned.
And in fact, whenever the nasty concept of regulating farmers or their use of the land came up in any guise, panelists were quick to shun it. God forbid that a public body entrusted with protecting our environment should think of actually regulating farming practices. Instead, lots of jawing about giving them “incentives” and releasing their innovative potential.
After all, regulating farmers would put us on a slippery slope. Before you know it, we’d be regulating restaurants, builders and dogs.
HB Regional Council CEO Andrew Newman sounded alarmingly like former (and I emphasize former) HBRC Chairman Rex McIntyre, who not quite eighteen months ago at a similar meeting in the same venue, told us, effectively, to hold our breath for ten years with respect to the Tukituki. Newman also talked about how laborious and time-consuming the regulatory process is, in part because of that cantankerous “environment lobby.” But being a bit more progressive, by his reckoning, gosh, it might take only five years for a plan change that better protected our waterways.
Of course McIntyre is gone, and somehow steps to clean-up the Tukituki are already underway.
But no commitment of a similar nature has been made with respect to the Mohaka.
As Bill Dodds of the HB Environmental Water Group noted, the Regional Council is content to regulate the 10% of effluent that comes from dairy sheds, but not the 90% that cows deposit around their pastures. “At that rate, why bother with the ten percent?” he asked.
Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis removed any doubts or illusions the audience might have held about the future. “Intensification of land use is going to happen,” he said, “The market will force it.”
And here I thought that the people of Hawke’s Bay, some of whom might not want stuffed rivers, might have a say in the matter!
How naive of me.