Finally, the long-delayed "action plan for freshwater" discussion document has arrived.
And with it the same old tired tropes are once again being trotted out for yet another maudlin turn around the dancefloor.
Federated Farmers and National are all partnered up for the competitive waltz. They're not of a mood to enter the Foxtrot or Cha-cha-cha section. No. Their current tempo of choice is downbeat and gloomy.
Gone is any attempt at poise and posture. It's all lowered chins and bent backs. The weight of the world is on their shoulders, and sashaying in gumboots is tough. They need the judges to see that. They need their endless struggles to be scored highly.
Even if the performance is lacking, they were once exalted by everyone. World champions at everything. This must be factored in. Acknowledged and scored accordingly. Just because the conditions and conventions have changed since their long-ago heyday it doesn't mean they should miss out on the sympathy vote. Does it?
Well, as the "judges" are in actuality the public, my hunch is the "scoring" will be unforgiving. Given how long they've been waiting for any real change to eventuate, expect the points accumulated to be indicative of our freshwater plight.
The fact is the Minister for the Environment has finally delivered a draft policy already giving hope to many a freshwater advocate. How do we know this? By listening to the overused tropes very carefully. Here's a selection of many;
"New Zealand's farmers need to feed the world."
"Townies don't understand us, and urban waterways are just as bad, or worse, than ours."
Waterway clean up won't harm economy, NZIER says
"Labour hates farmers."
"This will put us out of business."
"We've been thrown under the tractor."
Now, I could play their silly game and destroy each of these agri-industry cliches in seconds - or you could read my extensive back catalogue on all things farming and freshwater – but, suffice it to say, this is the calibre of opposition to the spectre of new freshwater rules.
Will it win friends and influence people? Not really. This has become a partisan issue because Federated Farmers and National are going out of their way to make it so. The hearts and minds of the masses pretty much see this rhetoric for what it is. Just another attempt at gaslighting.
I mean, we've been told for years now that farmers have spent $1 billion improving waterways. Repeated ad infinitum, the figure has never been quantified. If true, why is it that we still have such a problem? Clearly, it's not enough.
Or, how about this. Maybe some meaningful rules are in order? More limits, less nitrates entering waterways. Maybe our rivers could be swimmable again? What a radical idea!
In fact, just before the 2017 general election, I vividly recall a bunch of farming leaders got together and pledged to make all New Zealand rivers "swimmable" again.
The self-titled "Farming Leaders Group" comprised current Federated Farmers president Katie Milne, former Federated Farmers president and Ravensdown director Bruce Wills, governmental agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen, DairyNZ chairman Michael Spaans, Meat Industry Association chairman John Loughlin, Beef + LambNZ chairman James Parsons and the late John Wilson, Fonterra's former chairman.
They made a huge media song and dance and posed awkwardly together for a photo shoot on the banks of the Ngaruroro River. Short on pesky details, they provided zero timeframe or strategy. Still haven't. Not a positive word on freshwater has since passed their collective group lips, that I could find.
Now a cynic might say they were running scared at the prospect of Labour getting in, and the proposed water tax, so thought they'd better attempt to at least look like they weren't just paying lip service to cleaning up waterways.
Too brutal? Well, where are they now? Why are we hearing some of these very same people repeating the lines quoted above? What happened to Katie Milne's loud and proud pledge?
As spokeswoman, she said "the group understands much of the work needed will be challenging for the farming sector".
"It's about us as farming leaders signalling our commitment to making New Zealand's rivers swimmable and doing everything we can to achieve that."
"We're standing up and saying we haven't always got this right. More work is required and we will play our part. While there has been progress on farm in the past 10 years, we know there is more to be done, and that it must be done fast, and together."
Because those words are nakedly at odds with the words she, and her team at Federated Farmers, are using now.
Or do you think she just meant farmers would only honour the "pledge" if they were dance-partnered with National?
Either way, these "leaders" are doing their utmost to lead us all on a merry dance.