As we head into the election, water is going to be a major issue.

There will be a struggle to tell a story to all New Zealanders that either exposes the truth or attempts to hide it .

Some examples within the debate for the expansion of intensive farming are:

Irrigation schemes will bring prosperity. Untrue, they are mostly about the expansion of intensive farming, an industry that is polluting our water.


It's pollution for profit and the public usually ends up picking up the bill.

Large irrigation dams are about future proofing and the scheme will be good for the environment. Actually, there will be no future if we pollute.

The most stupid argument which I hear is, "you are just being negative".

If these people were to apply the negativity test to real life they would not bother to look both ways when crossing the road.

In that situation, trucks and cars would fulfil the role sabre-toothed tigers once had in strengthening the human gene pool by thinning out the stupid and incautious.

Lately, instead of the normal head-in-the sand, point the finger elsewhere denial and name calling, there is a new story being told.

This is that there is an urban/rural divide.

This is a very despicable strategy designed to turn New Zealanders against each other.


It is a defensive strategy to encourage all farming people to take on a siege mentality, circle the wagons and stand shoulder to shoulder in an attempt to use good farmers to defend bad farmers.

I understand that many of the farms that have the worst environmental reputation are owned by urban-based corporates.

Many New Zealanders have and will have lived in both town and country -
we are all neighbours who have more in common than we don't.

There is no town and country divide. That is an invention.

The divide that does exist is the one between those who pollute for profit and those who won't.

Between those who take their responsibilities to provide safe water in town or country seriously and those who don't.

Between those who deny the evidence and those who accept it.

Between those who want to change and those who don't or only offer tokenism.

It comes down to those who genuinely want to fix the problem and those who are the problem.

In 2010 the National Government sacked the Canterbury Regional Council, which was worried by the negative impacts of intensive farming on water.

As a result of this, irrigation schemes with the associated intensive farming blossomed and the waters in that region are now a mess.

Things have got so bad that even the non-democratic Canterbury Regional Council has indicated to intensive farm polluters that they will have to greatly reduce their pollution and quite possibly reduce cow numbers.

The response from the leadership within that farming sector is to suggest we are now at peak cow.

The cow population sits at about 6.5 million, which equates to about 90 million people all doing their business without a portaloo in sight.

Peak cow happened many, many moos ago.

The other thing stated was that if environment-protecting measures were to come into place then some farmers would go bankrupt.

This tells us that this type of business only survives economically by ruining our environment.

This is the worst kind of subsidy.

If bankruptcies were to hit this sector through "no pollution"policies, my only sympathies would be with those farmers who ended up where they are through the encouragement of central Government, regional councils, Federated Farmers, Irrigation NZ and others.

I worry about some farmers who have been let down by them. They were told intensive farming was progress and therefore good.

Instead it has become a progress trap with no painless escape.

The National Government has an Irrigation fund with just under half a billion dollars in it.

This fund should not be spent on making the problem worse.

Central Government could, and should, use this fund to help solve the problem. How?

By supporting deserving farmers to transition to non-environmentally damaging practices and by kick-starting an environmental renaissance.

That would be a genuine win/win.

Gren Christie was on the Ruataniwha Dam stakeholders group. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: