“Simply put, this has been the largest water-borne disease outbreak in New Zealand’s history.”
The recent water poisonings in Havelock North should serve as a stark warning to the rest of New Zealand. With nearly half of the small town’s residents struck down by campylobacter or E.Coli, it will be a while until local faith is restored in the tap water. Until then, the environment suffers yet another loss with the increased reliance on bottled water.
Coca-Cola and Frucor will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of further outbreaks, but is this the new reality under National’s rebranding to ‘100% Pure Greed New Zealand’?
This isn’t the first time New Zealand bores have been poisoned by E-Coli. Christchurch has had 125 contaminations over the past 4 years, yet still no serious questions have been raised as to what the leading causes of poisonings are, and only now are concerns being raised about the future of the untreated water supply.
National MP and environment minister Nick Smith says be realistic, a quick bird cull will fix freshwater quality, while he stands up to his knees in dairy effluent. With one eye squinting he tells another unconvincing lie:
“The number one priority is improving freshwater quality. It is just too important to our quality of life, our national identity and our economic well-being to allow the standard of our water to go backwards.”
Strong words, but all too hypocritical considering freshwater quality has become so poor under National’s watch that 74% of freshwater species are now facing extinction, while 61% of monitored waterways are now deemed unsafe for swimming in New Zealand. It’s clear the minister of the environment is more interested in protecting those who are polluting the environment than he is the now ‘wadeable’ waterways.
NIWA Pollution Models
The above NIWA modelled image shows the waterways most polluted by nitrates. Is it any wonder the areas in red aren’t the locations of bird sanctuaries but instead the most intensively dairy farmed areas of New Zealand?
With the discussion whether or not to add chlorine to all of our drinking water sources now well underway, the public needs to decide whether the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is the right approach or whether it’s time to introduce preventative measures.
John Key refuses to admit that we have any crises in New Zealand, let-alone a water crisis, mainly due to the majority of the blame laying at the feet of his rural voting base. But this unhealthy reliance on dairy is proving very costly to our environment and also to our international reputation, considering tourism has now overtaken dairy as our biggest export.
Rivers which once gave in abundance have been converted to irrigation hoses, washing excessive nitrates down through water tables and bores choking all life in the process. Those illegally taking millions more litres than allowed are seldom prosecuted and the cost of cleaning up after the polluters left for taxpayers to bear, knowing full well the industry could not survive if these costs were internalised.
Is all of this any wonder when the self-serving greed currently gripping the country is not only destroying our waterways but also our society as whole, with rising homelessness and poverty coinciding with the rise in wealth inequality?
Clean and green used to refer to our once pristine environment, but now gives reference to the newly printed bank notes exchanged for the white gold.
At what point do we as the citizens that rely on freshwater for our well-being stand up and go head to head with those currently profiting from the destruction? When do we hold the names in government and local councils accountable for turning a blind eye?
No longer can we sit back and allow the pillage of our environment for short term profit. We must demand our waterways are protected by both central and local government for future generations, and those who have made their money from the pollution of our waterways forced to pay for their restoration.
The widespread sickness in Havelock North is just the start of the ‘brighter future’ National promised New Zealand.
The freshwater crisis isn’t coming, it’s already here.