Stones from the South Island’s great rivers were used to build a cairn in the front of the Christchurch Cathedral before the statue of John Robert Godley, founding City Father as part of the continuing water protest on Sunday 13 June 2010. The Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthew blessed the cairn with Waimkariri river water. The cairn will remain in the Square until regional councillors are re-elected and democracy is restored.
It was a cold wet day but thousands came to listen to as Graham Wardrop and Liz Braggins sang Cry me a river , and adresses by Brian Turner the Poet laureate 2003-5, Lydia Brady the first woman to climb Mt. Everest without oxygen, Brian Deans a fifth generation farmer and opponent of Central Plains Water, Robin Judkins the Director of Coast to Coast, Morgan Waru a Student , Peter Beck the Dean of the Cathedral and Ariana Tikao singing for our rivers. Robin Judkins, the Coast-to-Coast organiser, told the crowd the Government’s move was ”autocracy”.
”We’ve been hoodwinked; we’ve been hijacked. We’ve had two basic rights taken from us clean water and the ability to vote who represents us on this issue.”
Beck said the commissioners were being watched and the community demanded transparency and openness.
He also took a swipe at dairy farming, saying dairying and a sustainable economy were “poles apart from one another”.
Christchurch student Morgan Waru, 17, said she wanted Canterbury’s rivers to stay as they were, instead of being polluted for “quick money”.
The Waitaha flag was flying and descendants of the prophet Te Maiharoa brought stones from the Waitaki River to place in the cairn. Russel Norman of the Green Party was helping place the stones.
Several thousand people were protesting over the loss of democracy in Canterbury and expresing their fears about the Government take over of Environment Canterbury and how Canterbury’s water will be managed in future.
There is anger that the public has lost their voice. The protest attracted people from many different groups such as The University of Canterbury Canoe Club, Forest and Bird, Fish and Game, the Anglican Church and Artists for save our water amid fears that big business and dairy interests will dictate what happens to Canterbury water.Brendon Burns was there along with Rick Tindell and ECAN counsellors in exile Eugenie Sage and Jane Demeter.
“It’s about the people of Canterbury coming together and saying you can’t just suspend our environmental laws and democracy and think you can get away with that,” says Our Water Our Vote spokesman Chris Todd. The protest is a continuation of the outrage about Canterbury’s regional councillors being sacked and replaced by government appointed commissioners, leaving ratepayers without a say. There is already been concern about the amount of water being used by the dairy industry and many protesters are worried the commissioners will give the green light to more development, putting even greater pressure on the rivers and underground aquifers.
The future of the Hurunui and Rakaia Rivers is also in the spotlight. Water from both catchments is wanted for more irrigation but opponents believe the rivers are under threat with conservation orders being suspended in the National water coup. Peter Beck, the Anglican Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, said he believed the demonstration was the largest the Square had seen for a ”very long time”.The crowd was estimated at 3000 people.
READ WHAT POET BRIAN TURNER SAID:
Water conservation orders are an extremely valuable and necessary form of environmental protection. I’ve campaigned for them over many years, and recently put in a submission in favour of protecting the Hurunui.
Now I find that not only has the government sacked all the democratically elected councillors of ECAN – it is for electors to do that, not governments – it also cancelled the scheduled Environment Court hearings set down to consider submissions on the various proposals for the future of the Hurunui. Additionally, existing WCOs in Canterbury are under threat. It looks as if very little is sacrosanct inside or out of national parks anymore.
There’s a desperate need to convince the wider public that environmental protection is a urgent priority and a major benefit, not a cost, to society as a whole. One of the most striking and naturally appealing things about the south’s landscapes is that they’re not all an artificially-produced vivid green, and nor should they be. We don’t have a God-given right, or duty, to modify and convert everything in nature to suit our perceived present-day needs.
Up until, say, around the mid-eighties, nearly all the rivers and streams between Dunedin and Christchurch were fairly clean and healthy; nearly all had a decent flow in them. But in the last 20 years especially, what has happened to the rivers and streams within, say, an hour’s drive from Christchurch, is tragic and deeply wrong. It is wrong when opportunistic private interests in effect steal, or look to steal, what rightfully belongs to the public.
This whole developing affair would be farcical if it weren’t so serious on several counts. Some things should be sacrosanct, WCOs among them.