Tax won’t fix water quality problems

Beneath the surface
with David Law
Forward Farming

Tax on water? That proposal has got to be the scariest thing any farmer has heard in a long while.

There has been a lot of discussion about these three words during recent weeks, including ownership of water. One spokesperson has estimated consented water users would contribute around $2 billion. Now the talk is that half will go to iwi and the other half will go towards fixing our polluted rivers and streams.

What an irresponsible shambles. Then I remembered – there is an election looming. I think this idea has got a lot more to do with election vote-grabbing than actually looking after rivers and streams. Maybe more about getting townie votes at the expense of farmers being whipped with another stick.

A wild stab, which is all anyone is doing, is that only a quarter of that tax will be used for what it is intended.

Good progress

There is no longer any dispute that there is a problem with our rivers and streams and now the focus is on fixing the problem.

After studying the process put in place to mitigate these problems and where the farming industry is focusing their efforts, good progess is being made. River and stream fencing, riperian planting on water edges and nutrient budgeting are among these.

A disturbing fact which has never been mentioned by media among all this noise is the cause of this pollution in our waterways.

Where did all this begin? In March this year, after the release of the Waikato Healthy Rivers Plan, I wrote a column titled ’Don’t blame the Farmers’. I still stand by that comment.

The cause of excess phosphate and excess nitrate in our rivers is common sense yet it has never been mentioned.

Farmers get all their fertiliser and nutrient advice from consultants who are appointed by the companies who sell the fertiliser.

Outdated practices

Despite the pressure on farmers to clean up their act, these major NPK fertiliser companies are still piling on more phosphate and unstable nitrogen than the soil can handle. Old outdated soil and fertiliser practises are keeping these farms in a primitive state, reducing the soil’s ability to hold on to nutrients and water efficiently.

It’s time that the experts charged with the responsibility of our clean rivers’ future began addressing this issue and challenged these major fertiliser companies . This action alone will immediately mitigate the primary cause of our problems.  

This direct action alone will make more progress than two to five years of taxes, collecting vast amounts of money to be wasted on beaurocrats to discover what we already know.

David Law specialises in balancing soils and reducing dependancy on nitrogen while

growing more grass.


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