Paul Bailey: We are all in this together

By Paul Bailey

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Paul Bailey
Paul Bailey

It seems this is the season where we reflect on the achievements of the past 12 months.

To refresh my memory I re-read my comments on how I thought 2015 had gone and my predictions for 2016.

Looking at my magic 8 ball this time last year I had made the comment that "are they [the people of Hawke's Bay] beginning to see what a financial and environmental risk the dam is to all ratepayers of Hawke's Bay, and has the issue of the common right to use water sunk in enough. If these remain the big issues for Hawke's Bay for 2016 then I predict we will see a changing of the guard at HBRC".

Of course the dam ended up playing a major part in the HBRC elections. So it should have.

It was the first opportunity for the general public to have a definitive say on the project and they definitely made the most of the opportunity. With re-election of the four councillors from Heretaunga and the election of myself and Neil Kirton in Napier the tables have turned.

Having a full review of the dam is an important step. We need to know how much it will cost to exit, how farmers in the Tukituki catchment can comply with Plan Change 6, and just how robust the reports provided to the public by the dam's promoters were.

It is worth noting that the Deloitte, MacFarlane, and Butcher reports are having independent and far reaching reviews done on them. In many eyes these reports simply could not be trusted.

At this point we should be patient and await the outcome of the review.

I am confident we will all be able to make a robust, fully informed decision about the dam after the completion of the review.

Hence my first prediction for 2017.

The review will answer a lot of the questions asked by the public of Hawke's Bay and that in the end the decision we make as a council will be quite simple.

To my mind the issue of water being a commons was reinforced with the Havelock North contamination issue.

Whilst the actual cause of the contamination has yet to be determined, rightly or wrongly the public made the connection between the way in which water is being managed and what happened in Havelock North. However until the inquiry releases its findings we will remain uncertain about the strength of this connection.

This is not to say that current management practices of our water resources should be ignored.

The public outrage at feedlots, and cattle still being in our waterways, is very real and cannot be ignored. The same goes with pollution issues with places such as Maungawhio Lagoon, Ahuriri Estuary, Lake Tutira and Lake Whatuma.

To my mind the people of Hawke's Bay are sick of hearing excuses. They want action over these issues.

And so to my second prediction for 2017.

There will be tears. I do not believe that the solutions are merely mechanical such as placing an aerator into Lake Tutira. That's just a band-aid solution.

What needs to happen is to stop polluting these jewels in the first place. And that means managing their respective catchments.

As you might have guessed this is likely to lead to our farming community having to up their environmental game even further. Hence the tears.

But I remain confident that our farming community can do this. We have enough examples of good farming practice happening already to give us a good base to work off.

The way I see it many farmers just struggle with the resources and knowledge needed to lift their environmental, and thereby their commercial, game.

It's just a small number who are letting their team down and doing irreparable damage to the reputation of farming in general. It is these few who need to feel the heavy hand of regulation and enforcement.

I have an honest belief that with the right support the rest will come on board.

And as a community we need to be willing to offer our support regardless of if we are townies or not. Because unless we get the farmers on board then our environmental problems will never go away.

In a way this is my third prediction for 2017. That there will be a far greater sense among the people of Hawke's Bay that we are all in this together. Urban and rural. Pakeha and Maori.

What happens on farm does affect what happens to our water, but we can't change farming practices and improve water quality on a regional scale without supporting our farming community to do the right thing by our environment.

As a townie I'm prepared to help. I hope that you will be as well.

Bring on 2017.

Paul Bailey is a Hawke's Bay regional councillor

- Hawkes Bay Today

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