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Matt Kelly's notes from the Mike Joy talk.
Report on Forest and Bird Science Seminar Series "Northland's Freshwater Crisis".
This talk was held last Thursday (27/8/19) I arrived at 17.45 to find scores of people milling about the entrance to the area where the talk was held, and two tables festooned with hot fried foods. My impression of the venue is mixed: the place is big, offers a bar and separate kitchen etc; but general noise from the bar and wandering patrons, not to mention the MC reading out the raffle results, was generally disturbing and interfered with the sound quality a great deal.
Jack Craw was MC for the talk, he introduced Millan Ruka who lead the karakia.
Millan Ruka formed and more or less is the ERP (Environment River Patrol) and is dedicated to protecting the waterways and rivers of his home in Poroti and in the wider environs for the health and well being of the country and it's people. Mr Ruka gave a brief history of the Poroti situation that scanned back and forth a bit, but essentially established that the area has been a hotly contested resource since at least 1888 when there were inter-hapu wars fought over the area. Mr Ruka then went into the WWII connections to his ancestors and the people of Poroti, mentioning that the men who went to war all bathed in the springs for spiritual protection and none of them were lost during the war. Mr Ruka then went into some of the notable travesties around the perceived ownership and use of the springs, both historical and happening today. One stark example tells of a man made lake approx 230m around, built by a property owner without any consent, however the owner was awarded retrospective consent by council (and a paltry $500.00 fine applied). This is only one of several non-consented lakes in the Poroti area. Another sad tale concerned a commercial bore built by a company called Zodiac, under the name NZ SPRING WATER for approx $48k; the bore languished for some time but was eventually bought in 2018 for approx $7.5 million by the Crown under Andrew Little's reign, and is currently held under the treaty of Waitangi process. Mr Ruka estimated the bore and land's true value was more in the order of $500k.
Mr Ruka patrols the rivers in a river boat he purchased at his own expense, he receives no recompense for his work. Dead cattle are regularly found in the river, Mr Ruka showed pictures of cattle at the rivers edge or in the water, and said that cattle which was not currently being milked are classified as "Dairy Support" by council, and therefore (somehow) are allowed to go into un-fenced river lands. This assertion was challenged by an audience member but Mr Ruka countered that there was nothing in the legislation to legally prevent farmers from following practices that lead to cattle in rivers and about un-fenced river land.
Mr Ruka stated that the NRC has given consent for approx 740 Northland farms to discharge waste into waterways. Mr Ruka was critical of the dairy monitoring process which he said follows a flawed protocol: Water samples are taken 20ms upstream and 20ms down stream, and although samples are taken at the point of discharge, the council only reviews the first two samples. Mr Ruka wants a real-time satellite nitrate sensor programme instated; He says only this form of monitoring can produce true readings in any meaningful way.
Mr Ruka also conducts Tuna (Eel) surveys and is part of the programme to transplant elvers (baby eel) over parts of the river ways made impassable by human made structures. The survey covers approx 33km of the Wairua and Wairoa rivers. The survey has found that commercial over fishing and noncompliance is not followed up by MPI or the Fishermen's Assoc. Mr Ruka concludes that his elvers transferring programme is only feeding the commercial fisheries who are able to catch eel at a small but compliant size and keep them in tanks to feed up for the market place.
Mr Ruka finished by pointing out the rivers are being depleted, and that he has seen the rivers at the lowest they have been in 40 years.
Jack Craw facilitated questions to Mr Ruka from the audience. One interesting Q was to copy the legal personhood of the Wanganui river. Mr Ruka said this was being looked into but that it is a matter for the treaty settlement process, so cannot yet be enacted, though he is involved in efforts to this end.
Mike Joy was introduced and spoke. He began by saying that only 24% of Northland rivers are swimable, but that modeling shows this will increase by approx 1.6% in the next 5-10 years which is really not impressive. Mr Joy said he would not speak directly about Northland's particular waterways problems as he had not studied them enough, except to say with some horror and disappointment that Northalnd Council is the only council in the country that allows farms to discharge directly into rivers. Mr Joy said he would address the bigger issues of national consequence, such as the power of Agribusiness lobbying, and scientific scams perpetrated by national government to fudge the stats in a bid to maintain NZ's unearned CLEAN GREEN reputation. Mr Joy took pains to state that he views farmers as the meat in the sandwich between banks and agribusiness, and that they are being let down by poor leadership at the governance level. Mr joy said that NZ has the highest number of threatened native fish species in the world, that current estimates state there will be no native fish by 2050, and that there is not and has never been any protection for native fish under the law. The lead culprit is intensive farming, although urbanisation has had a big impact on waterways, urban areas simply don't have anywhere near the same amount of water catchments as intensive farming. Mr Joy said that NZ has some of the cleanest and some of the dirtiest lakes in the world, 43% of lakes in NZ are polluted with nutrients, 84% of those are in pastoral catchments. Globally nitrate levels are higher than ever before. In many studies of biodiversity boundaries NZ ranks among the worst in the world, in one survey NZ ranked 153 out of 171 countries. But government cherry picks studies to prop up the CLEAN GREEN myth, for e.g. a Yale enviro performance study leaves out many or all of the things NZ is very bad at, such as nitrates and other indicators. In fact 68% of named ecosystems in NZ are threatened.
WASTE WATER: 152 waste water plants in NZ discharge into waterways. Of these some 140-odd do not meet 'B Grade' standards of water safety.
WETLANDS. Wetlands in NZ were once a large part of the landscape, but due to pastoral conversion and other pressures there are nearly no wetlands left.
Mr Joy explained the system of farm runoff, where nitrates are sprayed on grass to maintain cattle feed but that an enormous percentage of the nitrates are expelled in cattle urine and this runs into the waterways. All of the worst things that are happening to our water occurs in farming land.
Lobby groups, very rich and with high powered lawyers, push local councils and central government to favour and subsidise farming. Without the subsidies and taking into account of all of the environmental costs (paid by ratepayers and tax payers) farming in NZ, though often touted as the backbone of the economy, would not be a worthwhile industry. Mr Joy said that $12Billion in costs accrue annually from agribusiness nitrates.
Mr Joy explained the process of damage to the rivers: Nitrates cause algae to grow in rivers, the algae dissolves oxygen in the rivers and starves river life of oxygen.
THE SCAM: Central Government guidance on nitrate levels in rivers changed from safe margins of nitrates to toxic levels of nitrates, pushing guidelines to the maximum, and toxic level. This level of pollution kills fish. Due to this corrupt measure of safety FEDERATED FARMERS CANTERBURY claim the waterways score an 'A' rating, but this is a fantasy as the measure is corrupt. Part of the problem is that the levels of oxygen in a river change cyclically, so that the levels may decrease dangerously at 3am but rise at other points in the day. Yet at 3am the lack of oxygen will 'drown' fish. Harking back to Millan Ruka's words, Mike Joy stated that RMA rules are not adhered to by local councils, and that Government has moved the statistics to pretend that things are fine, though many details show that things are very very wrong.
DRINKING WATER: High nitrate levels have been linked to colorectal cancer. A measure of 2.1mg of nitrates in drinking water is shown to increase colorectal cancer risk by 15%. NZ has the highest rates of colorectal cancer: most cases appeared in Canterbury after the period of conversion to intensive farming; Mr Joy asked if this was mere coincidence, he thinks not. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk due to high nitrate drinking water.
DAM MYTHS: Irrigation systems such as dams and other systems are clouded with misinformation, Mr Joy left off most of the details as he said it is not really relevant to Northland yet, but may be. Mr Joy said the important thing to understand about irrigation is that localised on-farm solutions are always safer, better for environment and for farms, than big system fixes (like dams).
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: 1. Take environmental management out of the hands of regional councils, into independent management department like the office of the Ombudsmen for e.g.: Managed and enforced independently. 2. Upgrade wastewater systems. 3. Switch to environmentally sound housing. 4. Farming and horticulture must pay the true cost of preventing environmental damage by setting up systems that cannot pollute waterways or environment.
LAST WORDS: In a short time from now rival environmental reports will be issued. Mr Joy said he had witnessed the Government way of running things where lobbyists sit in and effect outcomes, versus Maori reporting strategies where ministers, lobbyists etc.are thrown out of the room and the data is processed independently. Mr Joy said this makes a big difference to the outcomes. We will soon see these rival reports and may deduce from them the levels of industry interference based on their recommendations and findings. Kahui Wai Maori report is the one to watch for.
Mr Joy summarised that Fossil Fuels are the basis of our nitrate problems: "our deadly addiction to nitrates": Mr Joy recommends the site https://waterqualitynz.info/ for more information.
Several local body candidates attended some hijacked the question time to promote themselves. QUESTION HIGHLIGHTS Q: Solutions: A: 1. More young people in local body elections. 2. Subsidies must be stopped: "$12billion in subsidies to Canterbury farming" Q: Legal ways to get councils to follow RMA and to stop intensive farming and dangerous practices. A: Expensive court cases, lawyers, taking councils to court. Mr Joy said that Eels and Whitebait need to be relisted/reclassified in terms of threatened species lists, and that by far the worst impact on these creatures is intensive farming and nitrate discharge.
Deep Adaption " Rather, I hope the deep adaptation agenda of resilience, relinquishment and restoration can be a useful framework for community dialogue in the face of climate change. Resilience asks us “how do we keep what we really want to keep?” Relinquishment asks us “what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?” Restoration asks us “what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?” " https://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf
What is the climate movement's state of play. " .....alliance building across movements to accelerate transformational change" - the importance of connecting. https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-07-02/what-is-the-climate-movements-state-of-play/
The real climate debate: https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-07-01/the-real-climate-debate/
2. Increased involvement of people in food growing can lead to other, large public and mental health benefits, radically reducing the social costs of sedentary lifestyles, poor diet and a wide range of mental health conditions associated with modern patterns of more socially isolated living. The involvement of people in local initiatives can also lead to other kinds of positive social change, building more caring communities.
3. The impact of individual actions on resource use can be very large, making communities and economies less vulnerable to sudden shifts in prices, availability or shocks induced by climate change.”
Seven Steps to creating a Sustainable Transition Movement: What step is Transition Whangarei at? Emergency Summit article below very appropriate. https://t.co/TJsv0XDtA5
Bring back Milk in Glass Bottles – Please sign the petition. Every name that is added builds momentum around the campaign and makes it more likely for us to get the change we want to see. Just click here: https://www.toko.org.nz/petitions/bring-back-milk-in-glass-bottles After you've signed the petition please share it with others.
GROW FREE NZ available on the Tutukaka Coast - promoting a sustainable culture of growing and sharing healthy food and other resources with the community for free. This grassroots, community building movement originated in Australia. www.growfree.org.auTop of Form
Sharing our food abundance nurtures the health and happiness of local communities and the environments in which we live. Grow Free starts with food, but ends up with community.
The growing process won’t be just limited to a community garden, but everyone can contribute ‘left over’ fruit or veggies that they have grown in their own back yard. As a result everyone should be able to take what they need and give what they want.
Once the growing and sharing starts they are aiming at setting up Grow Free Food Carts at a suitable location where people can exchange fruits, veggies, seedlings, etc.
WORLD FINANCIAL SYSTEM AT BREAKING POINT - The world financial system is as dangerously stretched today as it was at the peak of the last 2008 crash/bubble but this time the authorities are caught in a "policy trap" with few defences left, a veteran central banker has warned. Check out this story from the NZ Herald iPad App http://nzh.tw/11981351
A NEW ECONOMY – Documentary Trailer. Big things happen when humanity is at the core of business. A New Economy is a feature documentary that asks, Can cooperation save the world? https://vimeo.com/161668374
“ECONOMICS OF HAPPINESS” Powerful – share this with your contacts – if they only watch this one documentary, the ‘penny may drop’. The new abridged version says it all – we have to return to local sustainable economics to achieve happiness https://youtu.be/pyQaUDLW6ts
“HOT AIR – The Politics of Climate Change in NZ” DVD - We have recently donated this DVD to Whangarei Library.
“DISOBEDIENCE”the new film about the global movement to break free from fossil fuels - available free at watchdisobedience.com . The film is a powerful journey, featuring Break Free organisers preparing to mobilize for major global actions to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The movement is growing in size and courage. Join thousands of people across the planet in Break Free actions