Ngai Tahu predicts dairy catastrophe

Follow our Environment Canterbury Link to read the full evidence of Ngai Tahu.

Ngai Tahu is alarmed about the scale and intensity of the larger proposals such as the Southdown, Five Rivers, Killermont, Simons Hill, Simons Pass and the two Rosehip applications. Ngai Tahu considers that the science presented in support of the proposals is patchy and that there is a raft of uncertainties surrounding the actual and potential effects, especially those upon cultural values. They believe the applicants are seeking a suck-it-and-see approach.
For Ngai Tahu, its enduring relationship with the Upper Waitaki is too sacred for such a cavalier approach to be justified. They believe, a precautionary approach must be adopted to te Manahuna / Mackenzie country

“Ngai Tahu supports water being made available to provide security of supply for landowners but is concerned at the possible conversion to dairying. Almost without exception, the conversion over recent years of dry land farms to dairying has brought with it a host of adverse environmental effects and has resulted in the significant degradation in the quality of our rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. This has impacted seriously on the cultural health of waterways and has resulted in the further loss of access by tangata whenua to mahinga kai sites and resources. Needless to say, Ngai Tahu is strongly opposed to any repetition of this situation in the upper Waitaki/Te Manahuna/Mackenzie Basin Before Ngai Tahu will be prepared to depart from this position, it will need to be convinced that suitable measures can be implemented at both the on-farm and catchment level that will be capable of avoiding and/or mitigating the site-specific and cumulative adverse effects that will arise as a result of conversion to dairying.

A particular feature of this concern, is the unspecified impact that the irrigation proposals will have upon the small aquatic habitats such as wetlands, tarns, lagoons and small streams. Ngai Tahu are unclear from the assessments provided by the applicants whether (and if so, in what ways) the network of small aquatic habitats dotted throughout the Upper Waitaki catchment will be affected by irrigation. For example, will they suffer from too much/too little water, and will they become nutrient enriched?

As already mentioned, the Ngai Tahu experience with large scale land use intensification has, almost without exception, been negative. From their perspective, there is an unequivocal link between irrigation related activities and waterway degradation, and in turn, further loss of access to mahinga kai resources.The collective effect of these uncertainties and gaps is to cast serious doubt upon the quality of the assessments provided by the applicants. In their view, there is no room for such doubt when dealing with such large scale and potentially invasive eproposals. The consequences are simply too great. The consequences includesuch catastrophic events as the occurrence of toxic algal blooms at important mahinga kai gathering sites such as the Ahuriri Delta, the Lower Takapo River and the Haldon Arm of Lake Benmore. Ngai Tahu understands that there is also the potential for Lake Benmore to flip from a macrophyte dominated system to a phytoplankton dominated system. Outcomes such as these would be intolerable from a Ngai Tahu cultural perspective.

The collective effect of these uncertainties and gaps is to cast serious doubt upon the quality of the assessments provided by the applicants. In their view, there is no room for such doubt when dealing with such large scale and potentially invasive proposals. The consequences are simply too great.

In additional evidence Diana Robertson says that scientists working for ECan and Meridian have expressed a lack of confidence in the applicants’ reports relating to the understanding of the existing groundwater and surface water systems and lack of confidence in the nutrient modelling in the systems.
The confidence in the assessment of effects could only be increased by more in depth study of the existing environment and a more widely agreed upon use of the modelling tools and implications of increased nutrients on the receiving environments. Beyond best farm management practices, the only clear way to reduce nutrient load is by limiting stock units and fertiliser inputs. It appears from other submitter evidence that the use of nitrification inhibitors and removal of winter grazing alone are unlikely to provide a sufficient reduction in nutrient loads on the groundwater and receiving surface water environments.

In these circumstances, the default position of Ngai Tahu is to vigorously oppose all consent applications to take, divert, discharge and use water so as to enable conversion to dairy farming. Evidence of Paul Hogan on behalf of Ngai Tahu to Environment Canterbury 25 january 2010

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