Kiwis need to sharpen up.
With elections looming over us like a very dark, very creepy shadow, some real issues have been starting to sneak into our conversations. While we care about the whole array of issues New Zealand is faced with at the moment, there is 1 particular thing that has hit a sore spot with us at Breadcrumbs. Whether you are rich or poor, live in the city or the country, vote national or labour or one of those other ones… you probably have a deep seeded connection with nature. You are a kiwi after all. We have all spent our hot summer days jumping into rivers, swimming in lakes or chilling by a creek… so why is it that this reality is fast disappearing for Kiwis? Is our economic bottom line more important than our core values as kiwis? Can our Tourism industry continue to grow with such vigour in the face of such self-destructive investment into animal agriculture? Why is it that the problem of dirty rivers has only really gained attention recently? We wanted to find the answers to these questions…
How Bad is it? How long has it taken?
We have seen lots of people on the news standing at a manky looking pool of sludge saying something like “I used to pop so many Manu’s into this river. Now its just some dead eels”(not an actual quote). So how quickly is this happening? Maybe it’s just us but it seems as though rivers have become very average in a very short space of time. We did a little digging into how long NZ has been aware of the fact that lots of cows = dirty rivers, and we were quite surprised to find that we have been tussling with this issue since 1967, when the “water and soil conservation Act” was passed – when our cow population (total) was sitting at 2 million. Its now 2017 and we have 6.5 million cows in the Dairy industry alone (10 million total). So from recognizing a problem 50 years ago, how have we done with solving that problem??? Not good. Not good at all. And with Fonterra aiming for 4% production growth Year on Year we aren’t changing our ways anytime soon are we? If they are to achieve this goal then they will double dairy production in just 17 years. So the real question isn’t how fast our rivers are going downhill, its how much longer will we continue to do nothing about it. Because this hasn’t been sudden, it has been gradual and consistent.
If Federated Farmers were arguing our point right now they would say that they have committed to clean rivers in NZ. They would bring up the fact that our very own Ministry of the Environment has said that 90% of rivers will be swimmable by 2040. Great commitment on paper. But then you look closer. Instead of actually actioning meaningful change, Minister for the Environment Nick Smith simply shifted the goalposts to make it acceptable to swim in cow-poo. Under the new classifications, it is deemed acceptable to label a river “EXCELLENT” even though there is a 1/20 chance of contracting Campylobacter or E Coli from swimming in the river. That is in no way, shape or form an excellent body of water Nick Smith #youwontdrinkthewater #just20cupsbro #useafunnel.
The AM show discuss the potential solutions
But if not Cows, what else makes money?
In the context of a farm: Anything. Literally anything. It’s not even about getting rid of the cows, its about being sensible about how many cows we can have. Because over the last 20 years we have added the equivalent amount of waste of 90 million humans to our landscape… Without treatment.
“Well damn Breadcrumbs. Its all doom and gloom but where are the solutions?”…
Hemp. Avocados. Kiwifruit. Wine. Water(unless we continue polluting it).
We are very fortunate in New Zealand to live in the natural environment we do. Our soils are fertile (for now), our climate is great, and we don’t really have many people. This presents a massive opportunity for the diversification of farming. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Have a look around the supermarket aisle. How many everyday items are starting to skyrocket in price? All we need to do is look at niche products worldwide and pivot our agriculture export market to adjust for the high demand of easily produced commodities.
And let’s not pretend that the only thing our country can do is farm. We have an industry that is clean, sustainable, showing strong growth potential, from which we can be the world leaders. What is it?
The New Zealand Tourism Industry contributed $12.9bn to GDP in the year ended March ‘16. The Dairy industry contributed $7.8bn in the same period. So if it makes more money, why does the tourism industry not receive the same level of Government funding? Why would the government invest $480 Million purely into irrigation, and only $178 Million into adding Tourism Infrastructure and bolstering DOC’s budget? The answer is beyond us unfortunately. It would seem that the smarter investment would be to boost our Tourism capabilities ahead of providing resources to expand the already beyond-capacity dairy industry.
Blue Pools, NZ
The East Cape, New Zealand
^What the tourists actually want to see^
Tourism & Dairying go together like Pavlova & Tomato Sauce
Surely we could do both though? Continue to reap the fiscal benefits of Dairy Farming, while our tourism industry continues to grow at 9%(pa)…
No we can’t. Tourists don’t come here to see moderately beautiful landscapes with the occasional forest. They come to see another world. A place where Nature is King and humans simply exist. New Zealand is a place that a huge amount of the global population perceive as being perfect, which is what they expect when they finally arrive here. They don’t want to see bubbling, dirty rivers and massive industrial farms. They want to see forest, mountains, birdlife and beaches. They don’t want to see the impact of humans on nature, they want to see what happens when humans serve nature. We cannot be naive enough to simply expect tourism to continue to grow, while we pollute the one thing that people come here for. It’s time to chickity-check ourselves before we wreck ourselves because cow poo in our rivers is bad for our health.
Its not about who, but how.
Whether you are voting National (love money), Labour (love taxes), Greens (love spectating), TOP (hate cats), NZF (love gold cards + hate immigrants) or Maori (hosking says you cant vote for them anyway), doesnt matter! What does matter is the public pressure that we place on whoever is elected to solve this issue once and for all through meaningful regulations and incentives. Limit the number of cows allowed in vulnerable areas, regulate waterway runoffs, diversify the country’s export portfolio, Stop investing in massive irrigation schemes, start investing in tourism infrastructure. If NZ is going to talk the talk of being clean, grean & 100% pure, then we need to start walking the walk.
The Rant is over but some pretty sobering facts are listed below, just in case that wasn’t enough for you….
- New Zealand is set to release 647.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions between 2013 and 2020 – 137 million tonnes more than we are allowed under the Kyoto Protocol. This equates to us blowing our Carbon Budget by 27%
The Government Greenhouse Gas Inventory // Forest And Bird
- Nitrate limits for the Hurunui Catchment: The current [gross nitrate] load is about 693 tonnes per year. The science advice ticked that it should stay at 693. The zone committee draft recommendation was it should be 693. Dairy NZ lobbied the ECan commissioners and it was raised to 832. Then it went to RMA hearing processes where it was raised again to 963.
This is just an example of how scientific recommendations are not enforced through policy. Due to the dilation of facts by economic expediency.
Bryan Jenkins // Former Environment Canterbury (ECan) Chief Exec…. Before he was removed and replaced with a Govt. appointed “councillor”
- There is now a one in 20 chance of getting campylobacter swimming in an river rated “excellent” by the Ministry of the Environment.”
- New Zealand has the highest rates per capita for waterborne gastro diseases – which is no surprise when dairy has added the equivalent of 90 million humans to the landscape over the past 20 years without sewage treatment plants.
Mike Joy // Freshwater Ecologist – BSc, MSc 1st class hons, PhD in Ecology
- Figures published last year by CDHB show that around 34,000 Cantabrians get sick from waterborne illnesses each year.
Scary if you ask us…