The incoming National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management


In 2014, a National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management was introduced. It was the first serious attempt to use the N.P.S. as an instrument to prescribe freshwater policy in New Zealand. The N.P.S.-F.M. which was amended in 2017 will be superseded by a new one this week. But how keen are politicians on improving our freshwater resource?

On the centre-right, National, whose voter base is dominated by farmers and business owners is not keen and National leader Judith Collins initially said that the reforms would be “gone by lunch time”. Although Ms Collins has since back tracked somewhat, the overall support in the party for improvement of the resource is low and generally viewed as unnecessary red tape.

On the centre-left, the Labour Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is supporting the new N.P.S.-F.M. which seeks to broadly overhaul the checks and balances on use of the resource by farmers. The broad aims are to reduce the presence of livestock in freshwater bodies including lowland streams and smaller rivers, to require farms to have management plans and data loggers recording their water takes from groundwater and surface water sources.

New Zealand has a long and deep association with its freshwater resource. We use it for electricity generation; a multitude of water sports; farming; industrial and domestic uses. It supports an array of fisheries, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Maori iwi have ancestral linkages to the freshwater, its use for transportation, as a source of kai, and as ancestors the strength of the mauri (life force) is an indicator of its health. In the central North Island, Tainui whose ancestral lands cover much of Waikato are strongly linked to the river of the same name, in the same way that Ngati Tuwharetoa are linked to the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and Ngai Tahu to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Causes of the decline in fresh water quality can be traced to excessive nutrients going into freshwater, mainly from dairy farms. If waterways are not appropriately fenced off cows will urinate/defecate in the water. The break down of this introduces high levels of nitrogen which is bad for aquatic life in the streams, which in turn impact on the fish. In urban areas a failure to adequately treat runoff from roofs, road surfaces and industrial sites means a range of heavy metals find their way into water bodies such as the Avon or Heathcote Rivers in Christchurch.

The 2020 N.P.S.-F.M. takes effect on 03 September 2020.

 

Concerns I have about Waikato River diversion to supply Auckland


A plan to divert more water from the Waikato River is the subject of renewed political attention as Auckland continues to battle a drought. But it may not be as straight forward as National and New Zealand First want.
Some people will be concerned about the attempt to take water from the Waikato River and send it to Auckland. I am too. But not for reasons you might think. The Waikato River discharges an average of 340,000 litres every second – 1 cubic metre is 1,000 litres. This attempt at diverting water from the river and sending it to Auckland will take a bit more than 0.5% of the river’s daily discharge. The media deliberately used the number 200 million litres because it sounds big. Hydrologists measure river flow in cubic metres per second.
My concern does not stem from the water being taken, but from the fact that Auckland really needs to learn to be more economic with its usage of its water resource. I am also concerned that fast tracking this through the Resource Management Act process sends the wrong signals about water use. It is also likely to further challenge Tainui’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown about the conditions of use of water from the Waikato River – in January Tainui accused the Crown of breaking the Treaty settlement.
 A lot of people south of the Bombay Hills will find it frustrating that Auckland is applying to accelerate the Resource Management Act process, when this is not so much about creating new jobs as saving ones that might be lost from inept water usage. It is also irksome because other provinces such as Canterbury, Otago and Hawkes Bay are used to much drier climates and have learnt to manage their water use. And with climate change, those provinces are expected to dry out further.
We are one of the least efficient users of water in the western world. We take it too much for granted. The decline of our natural water ways in significant part stems from excessive diversion of water for irrigation, from our urban penchant for nice green lawns and so forth.
I am no fan of privatizing a resource that fundamentally I do not believe can be privatized. However one of the negative things we are at risk of inflicting upon ourselves is having to develop a market for water. No one owns water and I believe nor should anyone try to. The water cycle and the common characteristics of the cycle, as well as the universal need of every human being for clean drinking water, mean like the air we breathe.
But before I support Auckland’s bid to make the R.M.A. process go quicker, Auckland needs to have a hard look at its water usage. There are things it could do more immediately such as look for system leakage; people can check their shower nozzles to see if they are working properly; check whether their water mains are at an appropriate water pressure.
 

A conversation about New Zealand’s past


Over the last several days, my understanding of New Zealand’s history of British colonialism has been severely tested by events that have unfolded in New Zealand, and which may be linked to the recent unrest in the United States. With the rioting having subsided, massive protests pushing for a racial reconciliation have been breaking out.

In New Zealand the events in the United States have brought a necessary focus on our own race relations. How do we teach colonial history in schools? Are we teaching the right history? Is that history being taught without bias? Clearly we have an issue when in a matter of days, we can go from not even thinking about doing so, to toppling a statue of a person whose history am going to guess most New Zealanders knew nothing about.

When I think about my knowledge of the New Zealand Land Wars, following the Treaty of Waitangi and the Musket Wars prior to the treaty signing, I find quite significant gaps in my basic knowledge about the events, the timeline over which they happened and who was involved. These are very significant events in understanding the relationship between settlers and Maori, and the Musket Wars for example cost many more lives than I was aware of – I thought they had cost a couple of thousand lives and not the estimated 20,000-40,000, with perhaps as many as 30,000 more made to emigrate.

I did not even know what John Hamilton’s first name was prior to Thursday, when the first rumblings that the statue of him in Hamilton was going to be removed began to surface. I certainly knew nothing of his past, that the statue stood on the spot where Cook’s crew killed nine Maori.
At the same time I feel like my knowledge of Captain Cook has failed me. I knew nothing about the incident involving H.M.S. Adventure crew members, or that 8 Maori were killed by crew when Cook first anchored in New Zealand waters. I feel like my schooling has failed me. As Graeme Lay notes in a column for The Listener in 2019, some interactions were very cordial and productive, whilst others ended in violence.

But I am not the only one. My parents said that they were taught none of this either. My mother who grew up on a farm near Pukekawa in rural Waikato for example says that her school learnings were about the invasion of Waikato by the British in 1863, following the refusal of Maori to take an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria. This was one of the major conflicts of the New Zealand land wars and easily the deadliest. Both Maori and the British invested significant forces and resources in this. The British called up 10,000 troops for the campaign. The Maori built more than 22 kilometres of fencing which had about 1,500 troops manning it.

So, it is for these reasons I totally support the compulsory teaching of these events as basic New Zealand history. Improving our understanding of the events that happened and how they came to happen will go some way towards a sort of reconciliation between non Maori and the tangata whenua. Given the  12,000km² confiscated in Waikato following the 1863 invasion are now worth billions of dollars, the $171 million that was paid to Tainui in 1995 is barely 1% of its current value.

The best thing we as New Zealanders can do is learn from our colonial past. The best thing the education system can do is make sure that that history gets taught in schools.

180 years since Te Tiriti O Waitangi: Questions linger


On this day in 1840 Aotearoa became New Zealand. Te Ika A Maui and Te Waipounamu became the North Island and South Island, respectively. 180 years later, following a brutal series of land wars between the Crown and Maori, questions linger as to how to move forward.

But first things first. Of the seven Iwi that need to have their claims settled with the Crown, six have done so, but Ngapuhi are yet to come to the table. Indeed no one is quite sure how or when Ngapuhi will come to the table. The Crown no doubt hopes that this is soon, so that New Zealand can move on. New Zealanders at large for various reasons hope it will be soon.

How many Maori believe that the Treaty negotiations need to be wound up soon is unknown. The younger generation, having been made more aware of the past than their elders, have a more proactive view on the matter. This has manifested at various times at Ihumatao and more recently on the Kaikoura coast, where younger Maori are not so keen to embrace the idea that the settlements that have been completed are full, fair and final.

At Ihumatao Fletcher Construction was meant to build new housing on land of significant importance to local Maori. It had already reached an agreement with the kaumatua (elders) on how to proceed and was only days or weeks away from beginning construction when protesters occupied the land. Fortunately, unlike the Bastion Point occupied which ended violently in the 1970’s, this seems to have come to a peaceful conclusion, or the media lost interest.

A second one is coming out north of Kaikoura at the moment where the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Rebuild alliance has been forced to post-earthquake repair work. This because protesters have occupied the coast line that had been allocated for a new cycle way. They claim that the coast and ancestral graves on the hills above Ohau Point and Waipapa Bay are being desecrated. Maybe, but it is almost like after 3 years of work, it has suddenly become a problem now – the cycle way was being worked on when I visited in March 2019, which is nearly a year ago.

I find these late interventions frustrating. Perhaps it is a reflection on the elders not being stringent enough when their Iwi was negotiating with the Crown, and that maybe the protesters have a point. Certainly I believe it is an indication that communications between Maori interests has not been as good as it should have been. But should non-Maori be subject to an internal quarrel that they were not honestly aware of?

HAPPY WAITANGI DAY

 

 

 

Ihumatao settling down?


After an occupation that nearly boiled over in July on land owned by Fletchers, near Auckland International Airport we now have what might be a peaceful solution at hand.

New Zealand owes a degree of thanks to Tainui for their work with Fletchers to bring this to what will hopefully be the last step in a peaceful conclusion in the Ihumatao stand off. The settlement and the nature in which it has been reached is a far cry from the eviction of protesters from Bastion Point in 1975. In that event protesters were dragged by the hair in front of the media and police had the assistance of the New Zealand Army in removing them.

Protest leader Pania Newton was effectively sidelined in the negotiations, which focused on how to move the housing project planned forward. Ms Newton might be aggrieved, but she was neither the seller, nor the buyer. She was merely a protest leader who decided that there had somehow been an injustice committed against Ihumatao when in actual fact Fletcher had purchased the land legitimately, with the blessing of the kaumatua.The land had in fact been owned by Fletchers for several years and in that time until it was signalled that the land might be built on, no one had raised any points of contention.

The fears that this would be another Bastion Point eviction, whilst not impossible in the tension-filled days in mid-July, were I think fairly remote. The Police would have realized that it would do their reputation no favours to be seen forcibly removing protesters. They might have also realised that organizations like Amnesty International would be watching with their own observers on the ground.

Since the 1970’s Iwi, who were probably on the fringe for reasons not of their making, have become much more main steam – 6 of the 7 main ones have reached agreements with the Crown. Communications between tribal seniors and authorities would have improved in that time, perhaps helped along the way by a couple of stand off’s such as at Moutoa Gardens in Whanganui in 1995, where Police learnt about the art of the stand off and that it is possible for these to end peacefully on their own accord.

Hopefully this means that Fletchers can now move full steam ahead and build some seriously overdue housing to help offset the ongoing housing crisis in New Zealand. I expect that of the several hundred acres purchased by Fletchers, the most sensitive parts where archaeological and geologically significant features are present, will be bought back by Tainui.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should now visit Ihumatao and acknowledge what happened there.