It was like being back in the 70’s as hundreds of Christchurch citizens, enraged at loosing their vote, heckled those arriving at a National Party function on the last day in office of the sacked Environment Canterbury representatives. The police were out in force and one would be water bomber was arrested.
Very few of the water interest groups of Canterbury took up the invitation of the National Party Canterbury / Westland Policy committee and paid $10 for nibbles with a cash bar available to hear “Canterbury water – a collaborative approach” chaired by Mayor Bob Parker with the other panelists being the Hon Dr Nick Smith- Minister for the Environment, Murray Rogers – Water Rights Trust, Peter Townsend – CEO , Mark Solomon – Chair, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, David Horn – director Canterbury Water.
The crowd screamed “sack Bob” and “we can’t drink money”.
The Government has dissolved the elected council of Environment Canterbury and replaced it with unelected commissioners. It has decided that there will be no elections as otherwise required by the Local Elections Act for ECan later this year. Instead until 2013, the region’s water will remain under the control of what has been termed the Bazley gang” National ‘s own “lets have some dams” yes puppets. The credentials of the commissioners are weighted for irrigation and against the environment and ordinary citizens. For instance Tom Lambie is a chairman of the Opuha Dam partnership and Rex Williams is an engineer and businessman in cement production. David Caygill is/was a partner in Buddle Findlay, the same law firm that represents Central Plains Water.
Between them they have the credentials to make dams.
The catalyst for all this was a review by Wyatt Creech that damned the elected council. Creech is a big player in the dairy industry (amongst other interests, he, along with John Key at one point, and other National figures are behind the Dairy Investment Fund which owns Open Country Cheese).
The report contains accusations that the ECan councillors are too worried about ’science’ and says their decisions are “science led rather than science informed”, which is basically equivalent to saying that ECan should turn a blind eye to the facts when they’re inconvenient for dairy interests. It goes on to say “large numbers of staff are “green” in orientation”, which means they are sin of sin, putting the environment before the interests of farmers hell bent on sucking our rivers dry for irrigation. The Rakaia River closed up at the mouth about 10 days ago. Virtually unprecedented. People at Rakaia Huts say low flows are causing back-up flooding. Also unheard of.
At the end of the day, the dairy industry, which has deep connections with National, just wants more water allocated for dairy farming. They don’t care that this is unsustainable.
Yesterday agriculture Minister David Carter, who has a farm in the Hurunui and stands to benefit from fast tracking irrigation in the Hurunui, threatened other councils who do not co-operate with National party agendas of water for farmers and bugger the environment . He has finally said it: ECan was sacked because it didn’t “co-operate” with farmers and give them all the water they wanted. And other councils had better do what they are told, or they too will be sacked:
Speaking at the Irrigation New Zealand conference in Christchurch yesterday, Carter said the Government had “no option” but to sack the councillors.
“We had to act here in Canterbury because the situation was untenable if we are going to seriously make progress in delivering this irrigation,” he said. “I would have thought what happened recently with Environment Canterbury would be a signal to all regional councils to work a bit more constructively with their farmer stakeholders.”
The protest began on the steps of Ecan where the crowd was addressed by Labour MP Brendon Burns, Greens MP Kevin Hague, Yani Johanson and sacked ECAN councillor Jane Demeter. The protest then moved 20 metres to the Copthorne Hotel where the crowd roared and hissed as participants arrived, sharing their rage at the loss of the democratic process in Canterbury.
SHOW SOLIDARITY AND JOIN THE RATES PROTEST
Benmore dairying given OK
By MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD – The Timaru Herald
Last updated 05:00 04/05/2010
The Environment Court has approved a large-scale dairy farm in the Upper Waitaki, rejecting a warning from regional councillors that the development would be too big for the area.
But the decision has already been criticised by the Aoraki Conservation Board and the Green Party because of the farm’s impact on the environment.
The court has granted Little Ben Dairy effluent and land use consents to farm more than 1400 cows for 25 years, 6km from Lake Benmore, just north of Omarama.
Last year, an Environment Canterbury panel granted the company consent for 10 years for 750 cows, but the company appealed the decision on the grounds it was “restrictive”.
Little Ben had initially applied for a consent for 35 years.
Environment Court judge John Jackson said a decision was reached after mediation between ECan staff, Little Ben and the Department of Conservation.
DOC Twizel manager Rob Young said the department agreed to the consent after it was assured the owners would erect stock-proof fences 20m from the Ben Omar Swamp reserve, and there were appropriate penalties if nitrate levels were exceeded.
Little Ben co-director Mervyn McCabe said the consent process had cost the company more than $500,000.
“It’s taken us three hard years to get here. ECan kept trying to make up the rules as we went along,” he said.
Mr McCabe said there was “no way” the farm could have been profitable within the conditions they were granted.
“For the money we had spent, 750 cows and 10 years would not have been a viable option. The property is 450 hectares. We could have been forced to move to winter feeding, which would have been even worse for the environment.”
Central South Island Fish and Game opposed the original proposal, asking for the consent to be limited to 10 years. However, it did not speak at the consent hearings after it reached agreements with Little Ben about environmental protection.
Fish and Game officer Mark Webb said although he was pleased the company accepted its requests, it was disappointing the consent had been extended to 25 years.
ECan wetland ecologist Mark Davis said the Ben Omar Swamp was “one of the most important remaining wetlands in the Waitaki and Mackenzie basins”. The consent conditions require that the discharge area be 165 metres from the swamp.
At last year’s hearings, the ECan panel said there was insufficient information about possible cumulative effects because dairying was new in the area.
“We knew we were in the right in the eyes of the law,” Mr McCabe said.
“The permitted activity is at least twice what we asked for, and the technology we use to limit leaching is gold-medal standard. The councillors tried to rewrite the law. I think the Government’s sacking of the councillors was great.”
Green Party MP Kevin Hague said the decision was a “loss all round for the environment”.
“The ECan councillors clearly tried to adopt a cautious approach, but they haven’t been allowed to. I think it shows the lack of constraints in the RMA.”
The Aoraki Conservation board member John Keoghan said he was disappointed by the decision.
“We submitted that the consent should be granted for only five years. Essentially, the court has granted the company the maximum ability to profit for at least two generations, largely at the expense of the environment.
“I think we’ve reached a tipping point here.”
DAIRY FARM DETAILS
Little Ben is a subdivision of Buscott Station. Its directors are Mervyn McCabe and Richard Gloag.
The farm is near Ben Omar swamp, part of which was on conservation land.
The company initially applied for a 35-year consent to farm 1400 cows.
ECan was willing to approve a 750-cow operation for 10 years.
Little Ben went to the Environment Court, which has agreed to let the company farm 1400 cows for 25 years.
Up to 7560 litres of raw effluent a day would be produced by the proposed farm. It would be stored in two ponds and spread over 120 hectares on the farm.
from Timaru Herald Homepage