It’d be tough, but with heaps of technology innovations, we could live without oil.

Can’t say the same about water. It’s irreplaceable.

Here in Hawke’s Bay our fragile dependence on clean, ample, dependable water supplies is being driven home more and more each day.

But would you know that from the policies practised by our councils? I think not.

Sure, when we get a dry spell, alarms go off. Irrigation warnings and bans are issued. We’re urged to water our lawns less, or with cans, or at least after 8pm. Or warned not to swim here or there.

But meanwhile, we’re hell-bent on adding more sub-divisions, more vineyards … more growth. We can’t seem to get those consents and plan changes out the door fast enough. And meantime we just roll over consents for water takes because we don’t have the time or wherewithal to examine their sustainability.

What is really being done to ensure long term water supply viability for the region? Where are the plans for water storage and harvesting? Is water under-priced? What would serious water conservation incentives or regulations look like? What do we really know about the carrying capacity of our aquifers? Are water allocation schemes and policies outmoded?

And what about water quality? Crap (and worse) in the Tukituki is just skimming the surface, if you will. How many chemicals have we allowed to seep into our groundwater? Why do we settle for second-rate water treatment facilities? Why can’t we find polluters who dump ammonia into Ruahapia Stream? What happens if sea level rise presses salt water in and compromises fresh water?

The questions could go on.

Water is becoming a passion for BayBuzz, as you might have noticed. [And, by the way, we are growing nicely.]

We intend to be relentless and aggressive in our criticism of elected officials — and senior bureaucrats — who are ignorant, indifferent, intransigent, even on occasion hostile on issues of sustainable water management and water quality assurance. Because long before global warming does us in, short-sighted water policies will.

On the other hand, we welcome signs like today’s column by Craig Foss in the Village Press
indicating that others in the region have similar concerns. We will sing the praises of officials who show leadership on this crucial issue.

But the key word is leadership. Not rhetoric in planning documents. Not: “It’s on my list.” Not: “My constituents aren’t that interested.” And certainly not: “Relax, we’ve got it under control.” Or: “It’s always been that way.”

In this region, nothing is more precious for our governing councils to protect and enhance than our access to safe and reliable water. It’s more important than building sports parks and museums; more important than beautifying stream banks.

Our officials need to get on with it. And they need to do it collaboratively for the region … across council lines. We need water champions!

Tom

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