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.

Tom Belford

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Tom. By way of correction initially the word Mohaka was mentioned last night but really only in passing. Of course the "party line" nature of the panelists (with the exception of Mike Mohi) did tend to be soporific so I am not surpised you were asleep at that point!

    What disturbed me last night and since was the absence of addressing the "elephant in the room" – the assumption that intensification of agriculture in HB is inevitable or desirable or that it will lead to some sort of nirvana. We have for some time been building a model based on increasing production and consumption on the basis that it will lead to health, wealth and happiness. Look around – is it bearing fruit? It seemed to me that last night the expertise was coming from the front but the wisdom was coming from the floor.

  2. I too was at the meeting in H.N. last night. I did not know I was going to a 2 hour advert for Water Force. I think that the H.B.R.C.should put all its time and money into cleaning up all our rivers, not just the Tuki. They don't seem to grasp the idea that they are all stuffed.

    All the money they are going to spend on the C.H.B. irrigation scheme should go into buying all the cows that are polluting the

    Mohaka and move them off the land, and say sorry, we make a big expensive mistake. That is the only way I can see they will fix the problem.

    I said to a complete stranger on the way out of that meeting ,'"WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THAT" he said " WHAT EVER THE H.B.R.C WANT THEY WILL GET"

    I wish they would tell us what they are going to do about the Mohaka.

    Cheers B.Strachan

  3. Don't be fooled Water is the misdirection while larger issues are overlooked.

    Intensification = more off farm sales = more profit per farm unit = more damage to land.

    What none of these characters will grasp is that to continually take from the Land without replenishment results in following; poorer soil = poorer vegetation = poorer animal quality raised thereon.

    Using Drenches, Vaccinations and AntiBiotics is nothing more than "parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" and replenishment does not include spreading a bunch of chemicals, there is much more to the delicate balance of the soil than superphosphate et al.

    Rudolph Steiner showed the way to soil improvement back in the 1920s but has it taken on? – of course not, as there has always been too much focus on dollars, intensification, tipping point, stocking numbers and all that carry on.

    Bringing health to any block of land will not come from spraying it with water, river or otherwise, it may give a short term burst and most likely long term damage.

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