THEY SAY when you point a finger at someone in condemnation you have three fingers pointing back at yourself.
Fishing and hunting lobby group Fish & Game NZ has spent the best part of the last two decades pointing the finger at the farming sector and blaming it for the degradation of the country’s waterways. There is no doubt that the intensification of farming – particularly dairy with its increased application of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilisers and shonky farming practices — has all led to a decrease in the quality of waterways over the decades.
However, it is also true that the agriculture sector in general – and dairy especially – has lifted its game in environmental practices. Nothing is perfect, it never will be.
Some 97% of waterways on dairy farms are now fenced off from stock, and farmers have worked thoughtfully and hard to put in riparian margins and wetlands. Many during the last ten years have also spent hefty sums on effluent management systems. Dairy, sheep and beef, arable and horticulture organisations all have spent millions of dollars on science, research and development and technology in an effort to protect and improve the nation’s waterways.
New regulations are being implemented NZ-wide restricting land use, fertiliser application, irrigation, winter grazing and a myriad of other practices; all this is intended to improve water quality.
“The reality is that all types of land use contribute to water quality. Whether it’s vegetables, fruit, beef, sheep, dairy, deer or even wine, farmers must all work together to make sure waterways are protected,” says DairyNZ’s Dr Tim Mackle.
Mackle is right, however it is not just farmers who are responsible for ensuring our water quality, it is all New Zealanders.
The above-mentioned new regulations now being implemented by regional councils have come on the advice of collaborative catchment and water zone committees made up of farmers, local government and wider community representatives – many of these being local Fish & Game NZ officers and /or councillors.
But Fish & Game continues to take cheap shots at the farming sector. During the recent holiday season the lobby group – twice – released to great public fanfare the results of a poll it ran purporting to have found that the vast majority of New Zealanders want better quality water.
Well surprise, surprise; it is a fair bet that if you asked people if they wanted world peace and a cure for cancer at least 80% would have answered in the affirmative.
One has to question the huge disconnect between Fish & Game’s head office people who continue to take pot-shots at the farming sector and its people on the ground, many of whom are working with farmers and others in their local communities NZ-wide in a combined effort to improve water quality.
It is long past time for the Fish & Game head office wallahs to stop their incessant, negative finger pointing and emulate the collaborative stance of their people in local communities.