I was really interested to read articles in the Herald on Auckland's polluted beaches. Well-researched and well-written they showed me a problem of massive proportions. We have our nation's biggest city's beaches polluted by sewage every time it rains.

It is not an insignificant problem either as the Herald's coverage showed. One million cubic metres of wastewater and raw sewage, the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools, pours into Auckland Harbour each year.

The waste comes from 41 points around the city almost every time it rains.

As a farmer, albeit semi-retired, I found the story fascinating. Every week we read in the paper that Greenpeace, the Greens, Fish and Game or Massey's Mike Joy are slagging farmers over water quality.


When it comes to our biggest city, however, it seems that councils can pollute with impunity.

It is not just an Auckland problem, the same occurs in Wellington where locals are warned about swimming in the harbour after heavy rain. It is a major issue, surely, but it did not generate a peep from the self-appointed "environmental crusaders".

In Canterbury the two most-polluted rivers are the Avon and the Heathcote. Neither run through farmland which is probably why there is no commentary or criticism from the green brigade.

The same could be said of Auckland where the worst polluted streams are the Oakley and Otara. The problem is dogs, ducks and rubbish, nothing to do with farming.

There's a cacophony of criticism of farming practices and water quality but, for what it's worth, I'd swim in the Waikato, Manawatu and Tukituki and have done.

I wouldn't swim in either the Auckland or Wellington harbours.

Greenpeace slagged dairy farmers on its Facebook page which encouraged one poster to ask about the pollution in Auckland harbour.

The Greenpeace response that the "Auckland council is spending millions cleaning it up and farmers have spent nothing" is a bare-faced lie.


As the Herald pointed out the original plan was to fix the harbour by 2021 and that's been pushed back until 2035. The council has also refused to increase rates to clean up the sewage as another article pointed out.

So far our dairy farmers have spent more than $1 billion mitigating pollution, that's more than $100,000 a farmer. The money didn't come from the taxpayer or the ratepayer but from the farmers themselves.

In addition, farmers have erected a massive 27,000km of waterside fences.

Greenpeace and the green movement generally don't let the facts get in the way of a story. Remember the pollution of Havelock North's water?

There was an hysterical outburst from Greenpeace, the Greens, Fish and Game and Mike Joy blaming dairying. The fact is that, according to Dairy NZ, the nearest herd is 40km away. There are few herds in Hawke's Bay.

Further, according to our Public Health Surveillance Report, most cases of people getting gastro infections is caused by "person-to-person transmission" and not animals. In fact, 87.6 per cent of infections in 2014, the latest figures available, came from person-to-person contact.

In addition the most common settings for infection were "long-term care, child care, hospitals, schools and camps". Farming wasn't mentioned.

It has now been revealed that the likely infection was from sheep faeces. I quickly thought that all those green campaigners should apologise to dairy farmers for impugning their integrity but I'm not holding my breath.

The likely cause was sheep in a paddock, a heavy rainstorm washed over the paddock picking up faeces on the way and depositing them in a pond. That pond then overflowed into a faulty bore as had happened previously.

I would never, for the life of me, drink dam water. I don't even use it for the toilet as some of my colleagues do.

So the problem wasn't a four-legged animal but a two-legged one.

Just the week before last, Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf told Parliament's finance and expenditure committee that dairy had survived "a pretty big shock" and had survived it "pretty well" which had lessened the effect to the general economy.

And while dairy survived that pretty big shock it spent more than $1 billion on the environment and fenced the equivalent distance of going from Auckland to London and halfway back.

Dairying needs solid support and not the lies, witchcraft and obfuscation of the green brigade.

Alan Emerson is a semi-retired farmer, businessman and writer living in Wairarapa.