Legal advice that says Hawke’s Bay farmers might have to reduce stock numbers in order to mitigate pollution to waterways, will have implications for water allocation all over New Zealand, the Green Party said today.
Earlier this year, a Board of Inquiry ruled that the proposed $80million Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke’s Bay can only go ahead if farmers taking water from the scheme keep the amount of nitrogen from their farms entering waterways below certain limits.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) sought advice from law firm Simpson Grierson on whether farmers could be exempt from that limit if their farms take a best practice approach.
“HBRC are desperate for this dam to go through no matter what,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.
“HBRC have tried to wriggle out of the conditions the Board decided on by getting this advice.
“However, it has backfired, and the lawyers have said that even best practice methods do not let farmers away with high nitrogen outputs, and they will have to reduce stock numbers.
“This advice has implications for other water storage schemes in the works around the country. Every one of them needs to take the environment into account, and not let commercial interests outweigh protection of our water quality.
“Many parts of the Tukituki catchment are all already at the limit of what the environment can handle.
“But HBRC appears determined to see the Ruataniwha dam go ahead no matter what damage it does to water quality.
“New Zealanders want rivers they can swim in, not rivers that are degraded by algal blooms, infested with weeds, or pose a health risk, which is what happens when too much nitrogen and other pollutants from agriculture enter the water.
“Reducing stock numbers is a sensible approach, as it’s the volume of waste from animals that degrades water quality. Fewer animals means less waste, which means less pollution in the long run,” Ms Delahunty said.