Greenpeace is today condemning a large-scale irrigation
consent as ‘locking in overstocking of the land with dairy
cows which is bad news for our climate, a guarantee of more
water pollution and a risk to human
Environment Canterbury has granted a
replacement consent for the Mayfield-Hinds-Valetta (MHV)
irrigation scheme to operate on 56,500 hectares of farmland
between the Ashburton and Rangitata rivers.
originally granted consent to discharge an alarming 104
kilograms of nitrate per hectare, outraging locals and
Intensive dairying pollutes
waterways and groundwater with nitrate-nitrogen due to
run-off from cow urine and synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.
Nitrate pollution in water can cause a range of health
effects, including ‘blue baby’ syndrome in infants fed
formula milk made with nitrate-polluted water. It has also
been linked to increased rates of bowel cancers.
current ‘safe’ level for nitrate-nitrogen pollution in
drinking water is 11.3mg/L, but the link to increased rates
of bowel cancers has been shown in international
studies at as low as 0.87mg/L.
campaigner Steve Abel says the consent comes after a long
history of central and local governments failing to properly
regulate the dairy industry.
“Intensive dairying is a
triple whammy: it’s fouling rivers, spewing out climate
pollution and putting our health at risk. All of that has
gone unchecked,” says Abel.
“With all we know of how
destructive this pollution is, ECan’s granting of this
consent is just further proof that both central and local
governments are putting dairy industry profits over the
health of our communities.
“How many people have to
get sick before central and local government act? We cannot
keep farming like this if we want healthy communities,
flourishing rivers and a safe and stable
ECan granted the consent with the
requirement that MHV achieve a 25 per cent reduction in
nitrogen losses by 2030.
“A quarter less
nitrate-nitrogen in ten year’s time is still a hell of a
lot of nitrate pollution seeping into drinking water. This
figure will be no comfort to the communities who are already
legitimately concerned about drinking the water that comes
out of their tap,” says Abel.
The consent application
was non-notified, meaning that the public were not able to
have a say on it.
“The way New Zealand farms affects
all of us, from water pollution to the climate crisis.
It’s immensely frustrating and dangerous when even the
most affected local communities can’t have their say on a
consent like this,” says Abel.
Greenpeace is calling
on the Government to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser
the limit for nitrate-nitrogen in water from 11.3mg/L to
0.87mg/L, in line with international research on nitrate
pollution and bowel cancers.
“Everyone should be able
to trust that the water from their tap is clean and safe to
drink. It’s a sad state of affairs when New Zealanders
can’t rely on their central or local governments to
protect their health and the health of the land, water and