Dear Mr English, Now would be a good time to come clean on our waterways

My name is Paul Tudor, and I shout at my television set.

Honestly, I thought I had it licked. I really did. It has been a difficult journey, but things were on the up and I thought blood pressure levels were aok again.

But last Thursday, during that first leader’s debate on TVNZ, there I was again, yelling at the telly and losing it.

The tipping point was when Bill English mentioned the Land and Water Forum in the debate about dirty rivers. Apparently, “we” established the Forum to solve the water problem and what a great outcome we are achieving as a result. What Mr English didn’t tell the New Zealand population was what his government did to that forum, possibly because he doesn’t remember or, more likely, he is ashamed to admit the truth.

The Forum initially brought together the major interest groups in the debate. And the Government supported the work programme. The problem came when the Forum’s first lot of recommendations came out and the Minister, Nick Smith, ignored most of them:

I fully support Fish and Game’s decision to leave the Forum:

Clearly there is a need for an organisation that brings everyone together around the table – but if the National Party are going to interfere to protect their stakeholders, farmers and big business (and Fonterra is the biggest business there is in this land), then what is the point in having such a toothless body.

Since the departure of Fish & Game, more members have walked away:

For English to claim this as one of his solutions to clean up our rivers is hypocritical – it is also misleading the New Zealand people to say that it is doing a good job. The only people doing anything here are the organisations that are walking out.

In reaction to the Labour Party proposal to levy water take, a group of agricultural bodies got together to show unity in the face of threatened water regulation. This was covered really well in a Morning Report story on Radio NZ (link to come) and also the issues were well summarised by Rachel Stewart in the Herald:

[Stewart’s previous column, on how she was jumping on the “Jacinda train” contained some of her most eloquent writing ever, but this one, on the fight for clean water, is one of her best ever and should be a shoe in for the shortlist, at least, for next year’s Canon Awards.]

Unity, but… The group gives good spin, but no actual commitments, it seems (and in case you are wondering the key parties were also founding members of the Land and Water Forum.)

But choosing to launch this group on the banks of the Ngaruroro was a clear bare buttocks or “bite your thumb at me, sire” (sorry Shakespeare) to the rest of society, the people, everyone.

The Ngaruroro is currently being investigated for the possibility of receiving a Water Conservation Order (WCO.) There are currently 14 waterways with WCOs, basically this is a national protection rule, it is not given lightly and to choose to have their launch here was a show of strength and arrogance. These people know that National will not criticise them for inciting division by the choice of location.

We have no hope – if these are the leaders of our major agricultural industries.

POSTSCRIPT – Bill English again cited the Land and Water Forum as a success story on Checkpoint (RNZ National) tonight, 13 Sept 2017 – the Forum has clearly failed to achieve what it agreed upon and is now a dysfunctional group with major disagreement among the remaining members

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