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New Zealand Freshwater Debate

Freshwater seems to be constantly in the headlines today. For someone who doesn’t have experience within the freshwater sector, it can often be very complicated on which side to take. You could take the simple viewpoint that we should have clean water no matter what. How much will this cost to implement? How will it affect our countries productivity? Or you could take the opposite viewpoint, that it is too expensive to fix our water quality and that it will have adverse effects on our already struggling farmers.
I personally value both sides of the argument and see the advantage of both. We want clean waterways but we do not want to have to pay excessive amounts or jeopardise jobs, livelihoods or productivity in the process. Is there a reason that we can’t have both?

In my opinion, we can have both but it would require an adjustment in the way we work. From the primary industry sector, it would require an adjustment to our practices. De-intensify our industry and focus on more profitable avenues “artisan product”, for example, dairy farmer’s switching from normal milk to organic. The prices are significantly higher for organic milk but also the effect on our ecosystem is reduced, especially on our waterways. Also using creative solutions like the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Project (more info) can hold the key to improving them.

We also need to change the way we view our waterways. When we look at a waterbody we also need to see a recreational facility, a health programme, and a classroom. There is an associated cost to improving waterways but if we utilise the full extent of its service that our waterbodies can offer, it makes improving the system cost effective. The funds that we would put into other areas we invest into our waterway so they can provide high-quality services and take pressures off other public services.
What if improving our waterway improves more than just the environment but also enhances other aspects of our nation? Maybe the solution requires just thinking outside the box.

By Connor Whiteley

Ecologist