Death by a Thousand Straws
Bloggers: Poet laureate (2003- 2005), fly-fisherman and mountaineer, Brian Turner, and Forest & Bird’s Conservation Advocate Nic Vallance.
On Sunday, concerned Cantabrians including some very passionate entertainers, artists, poets and speakers will be descending on Cathedral Square to add their voice to the growing discontent over the management and protection of Canterbury’s rivers.
Many of Canterbury’s rivers are legally recognised as ‘nationally outstanding’ and have been gazetted with a Water Conservation Order (WCO) – something which gives them national park-like protection.
However, in the past six months, the whole process of reviewing/placing these orders has been stealthily re-engineered in favour of water-hungry developers.
First, the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act was passed under urgency, giving developers the right for a WCO to be challenged or varied, with no right of appeal to the Environment Court. As a result, the democratically-elected councillors of ECAN were abruptly sacked. The buck now stops with the new Government-appointed commissioners.
An Official Information Act request by Forest & Bird showed that the key driver for this new legislation and the sacking of the councillors was to accelerate development of large-scale irrigation and water storage, in particular on the Rakaia River (which had a WCO protecting it), and the Hurunui River (which had one pending).
The government identified these crucial protection mechanisms as ‘blockages’ to development, so they moved swiftly to remove these ‘blockages’.
So we’re speaking up about his theft of the commons. One of those people raising his voice is wordsmith Brian Turner. Over to you, Brian.
Water conservation orders are an extremely valuable and necessary form of environmental protection. I’ve campaigned for them over many years, and recently put in a submission in favour of protecting the Hurunui.
Now I find that not only has the government sacked all the democratically elected councillors of ECAN – it is for electors to do that, not governments – it also cancelled the scheduled Environment Court hearings set down to consider submissions on the various proposals for the future of the Hurunui. Additionally, existing WCOs in Canterbury are under threat. It looks as if very little is sacrosanct inside or out of national parks anymore.
There’s a desperate need to convince the wider public that environmental protection is a urgent priority and a major benefit, not a cost, to society as a whole. One of the most striking and naturally appealing things about the south’s landscapes is that they’re not all an artificially-produced vivid green, and nor should they be. We don’t have a God-given right, or duty, to modify and convert everything in nature to suit our perceived present-day needs.
Up until, say, around the mid-eighties, nearly all the rivers and streams between Dunedin and Christchurch were fairly clean and healthy; nearly all had a decent flow in them. But in the last 20 years especially, what has happened to the rivers and streams within, say, an hour’s drive from Christchurch, is tragic and deeply wrong. It is wrong when opportunistic private interests in effect steal, or look to steal, what rightfully belongs to the public.
This whole developing affair would be farcical if it weren’t so serious on several counts. Some things should be sacrosanct, WCOs among them.
Event: Reflections on water
Location: Cathedral Square
Date: 13th June, 3pm
“The loss of our elected regional council, the loss of water conservation orders and our right to argue for or against them, is a loss for democracy. We invite you to gather with us in Cathedral Square where a cairn of river rocks will be constructed as a mark of public concern.”
Find out more: http://www.ourwaterourvote.org.nz