Clive Bibby: Paul Bailey right about one thing on Ruataniwha dam, but he can't have it both ways

By Clive Bibby

Clive Bibby
Clive Bibby

Napier regional councillor Paul Bailey is right about one thing - the major problems facing the region must be shared responsibilities for all residents.

It's a pity he is being disingenuous in not accepting his own advice.

He fails to acknowledge that other contributors to this paper have been making this point ad nauseam during the recent debates on water issues.

Most of the supporters of the Ruataniwha dam project have based their argument for regional financial support on the fact that the beneficiaries of this proposal will be all Hawke's Bay residents, not just the farmers who will "turn the water into wine".

Yet Paul and his fellow critics of the scheme have turned a blind eye to the obvious flow-on effects (excuse the pun) and suggest any benefits will be localised and consequently the total costs must be met by the users.

If he honestly feels that way, then how can he justify any support for regional finance to fix the allocation of water in a sustainable way on the Heretaunga Plains?

Presumably he will be keen to label that issue as one with regional consequences, particularly as the existing policy of allowing his fellow councillors access to the aquifers is not sustainable and will require provision of water from other sources at huge expense.

Perhaps I'm being unfair and he will suggest that these local users of this precious resource should cough up all the funds required to build any new reservoirs.

Surely that would be the honourable thing to do if he is consistent with the basis of his argument. However, doing so would expose the inconsistency of his wider appeal
for the ratepayers to reject responsibility for other environmental problems he currently sees as farmers' alone.

Sorry, but he can't have it both ways.

In his recent pompous rant, Paul is quick to point the finger at farmers who own land with feedlots or are adjacent to waterways that can be polluted by residual fertiliser run off or animal waste.

Paul should know that the region as a whole is the major beneficiary of both good and bad farming practices and as such would agree that the penalties imposed for polluting this valuable resource are at the discretion of the local authority as the agent operating on behalf of the regional ratepayers.

That fact alone suggests that this problem is a regional one and must be dealt with using all the resources (human, financial and physical) available to the authority with that

I go a step further and suggest that in this case the problem is so big that it is beyond the resources of the farmers or other agricultural producers and should be treated as a joint venture (public/private) as is the case with other infrastructure issues, for example rural roading, power supply and so on.

In arguing this way, I am mindful of the considerable efforts already being made by farmers to contribute their fair share of the cost of developing more acceptable systems. But the price of fixing things within the time frame advocated by the green brigade is simply beyond individuals or even groups of farmers.

This is so is because the solution to waterway pollution on farms lies with total exclusion of animals and their byproducts from all creeks, streams and rivers. This can only be done effectively in two ways.

1) by fencing off all livestock access to all waterways, which usually requires fencing both sides of the stream or river.

2) by planting the banks of the water courses between the fence and the water with species that will act as a filtration barrier against run-off from grazing land. To establish effective barriers of this type, it is important to build both parts at the same time.

The cost is enormous, with individual landowners facing crippling bills if forced to do it all without help. The length of new fencing on some properties would run into many kilometres.

I hope the readers of this article will now understand why I must defend the rate of progress in solving this issue.

Paul Bailey is either deliberately misrepresenting the facts or is woefully ill informed about the enormity of the task facing the region to be so irresponsible in his call for "the few to feel the heavy hand of regulation and enforcement".

I wish it were that simple - it is not!

His constituents should expect better from him.

I hope that when the chairman of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council calls the house to order after councillors' time out for Christmas they will begin to take on board the validity of suggestions like mine. It would be good if we could all accept some form of compromise that is fair to everyone.

As Paul says, we're all in this together.

- Clive Bibby is a fourth- generation member of a well-known CHB farming family who has been farming at Tolaga Bay on the East Coast since 1980.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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