Comment: A one-size-fits-all approach to clearing up our waterways will alienate the very communities that need help, writes President Federated Farmers Waikato, Andrew McGiven.

It was clear from the recent Essential Freshwater consultation meeting in Hamilton hosted by the Ministry for the Environment that this proposed legislation would cause a huge amount of social and economic damage to our communities.

In my opinion, it was also very obvious that scant analysis of the impacts had been done by either the Ministry or any of its advisory panels.

What is especially concerning is that while the objective is cleaner, more swimmable rivers, which Federated Farmers wholeheartedly endorses, the proposed method is a blanket, one-size-fits-all template which has proved counter-productive through various regional plans.


Read more from Federated Farmers here.

By failing to adopt a catchment by catchment approach where the water is forensically monitored, not modelled, the Ministry for the Environment - and by default the regional councils - risk alienating the very communities they need to address these issues.

By not understanding, or in my opinion, even caring what these impacts will be on communities shows a disdain by the minister in charge of the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries, and this is emphasised with the short submission period.

Unless the communities are involved and engaged, this draft legislation will fail because if history has shown us anything, it is that draconian and short-sighted laws will be defied by most citizens at some stage. Take the example of William Tell.

Federated Farmers Waikato members fears are that if this legislation is enacted in its current form, it is only one small step away from determining allocation and water rights for all, and that will require determining ownership.

Currently the water is owned by no-one and everyone and held in trust for the people of New Zealand by the Crown.

President Federated Farmers Waikato, Andrew McGiven. Photo / Supplied
President Federated Farmers Waikato, Andrew McGiven. Photo / Supplied

If the Crown abdicates its responsibility and allows private interests to "own" water, then we all run the risk of water being seconded away from community good enterprises to something more economically lucrative that only benefits corporates.

One example is the water being bottled for the export market.


The Ministry for the Environment currently states that there are no plans around water allocation takes or ownership rights yet, but how much of a leap is it from determining nutrient allocation rights from water bodies to the allocation of the water itself?

This would have a huge impact on residents and businesses in our urban centres, who currently only pay rates on the infrastructure that ensures the water can be delivered and disposed of. Imagine the outcry if the actual water itself was charged for.

This is your chance to consult on the draft Essential Water legislation with submissions closing on 31st October.

The politicians need to hear how this bill will affect your family and your community.

I do hope that Ministers Parker and O'Connor listen and heed some of the submissions that will be forwarded to them in the next month.

I believe it would be a huge breach of public trust and faith if they were ignored and the result a fait accompli.