Tommy Kapai: How can we profit from poisoned land?

By Tommy Kapai

It's official: the culprit is out of the closet and now New Zealand is known as 100 per cent pirau (contaminated).

Forget about who poured the poison down the pirau pipe over in the Waikato, our clean green image has been left standing naked on the front page of newspapers across the globe, and now there is a long dark cloud of doubt gathering across the country.

A doubt and a disbelief that has nothing to do with China or contaminated formula.

The sea change of belief has everything to do with the Fonterra fiasco forcing us to put the blow torch of blame on a belief in a brand we know deep down is not true.

You only have to look in our own back yard to know we are far from being 100 per cent pure and quickly closing in on being 100 per cent pirau.

Locally we still pour Hicane on to our whenua with no regard for any long-term effects it may have.

Surely if we were the good corporate caring citizens that our marketers tell the world we are, then how about conducting the first ever study on the effects of Hicane on the land and the people who live on it?

I find it beyond belief that ever since it was trialled on a Te Puna orchard 20 years ago there has never been any scientific study done on its effects. I wonder why that is?

When will we learn? When we get a Fonterra freak-out is probably the answer. If our key markets perceive our product to be clean, green and 100 per cent pure will it be the market that determines when we clean our act up and not the recipients of the poison?

There seems to be a perceived arrogance from the Big Boy brands, almost too big for their gumboots when it comes to listening to the voice of concern, and how is it we have chief executives representing New Zealand with foreign accents that can barely be understood and names that are beyond pronunciation?

Do we not grow good leaders in this country to match the great products we produce?

Surely there is enough unequivocal evidence to start ringing a few alarm bells now to warn us of the out-of-control environmental nightmare our kids will inherit.

When I hear scientists of significant reputation speaking on national radio warning us the planet we live on cannot continue at the rate we are poisoning it, and there is a 90 per cent chance we will not see the next century, it saddens me beyond sleep on many nights.

Maori have a part to play in this problem and locally we can lobby for change by implementing a more organic, holistic approach as was the way in our forefathers' farming days. This can be done right now with the iwi and hapu management plans being implemented.

Strong scientific evidence by Dr Mike Joy, senior lecturer in ecology at Massey University, who tells us 60 per cent of all our rivers and waterways are unfit to swim in, should be listened to with both ears.

Debbie Swanwick, spokeswoman for Soil & Health - Organic NZ, said: "Sooner or later our export markets will start rejecting our dairy products because of unsafe levels of cadmium." These remarks are made from the fact that two million tonnes of superphosphate fertiliser containing 30 to 40 tonnes of the heavy metal cadmium is put on New Zealand soils every year. New Zealand is now dangerously close to toxifying its soils. "Furthermore, the health of Kiwis will get worse and our public health bill will increase unless we switch to organic and more sustainable farming methods."

For those orchards hit by PSA perhaps now is a good time to consider organics?

We all have to take responsibility for what we are doing to Papatuanuku - Mother Earth - and for me it's all about getting the balance of food production with whenua protection and this can be implemented into our iwi and hapu management plans.

For whenua farmers with a conscience based on kaitiakitanga, it's about diversifying away to sustainable and organic farming and it's about teaching our kids to be environmental warriors.

You can have all the land back and the language spoken again but if the whenua around us is 100 per cent pirau there will be no future generations to enjoy it.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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