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Just What Is Going On With Enforcement?

It is a toss-up between Rachel Stewart and Dr Mike Joy as to who is their greatest bete noir, and the one that brings the well honed defence mechanisms orchestrated by the Feds to the fore. Rachel Stewart's article in the NZH today is a case in point.

But those two are by no means alone in their apparent futile quest to seek greater use of enforcement powers already granted to the Regional and District authorities. Indeed, the failure is inescapable when viewed in the light of the most recent report from the Environmental Defence Society by Dr Marie Brown that found that the problem was:  

"the sheer expense for councils to prosecute lawbreakers. Other major factors included poor quality law, a lack of audit and oversight, and politicised decision making."

Political interference has been the one consistent theme since a Report from the Auditor General in 2011:

"Lyn Provost stressed that councillors should not be involved in investigating breaches or deciding whether to prosecute. At all four regional councils investigated in the report, elected members were found to have been involved in prosecutions to some degree."

Does anything change? - hardly, the only reason farmers stand for these Councils is to ensure a last bulwark against any action by enforcement is totally as a 'last resort, the old mantra of "education first, and last' comes into play.

The other age-old technique to keep the wolves at bay is to encourage reduced enforcement capacity, and incoherent reporting over the 78 enforcement authorities - for that you can blame the Department of Primary Industry which appears incapable of overseeing the Act.  Why else could E Can get away last year with failure to prosecute a single infringing farmer despite hundreds of complaints, and clear evidence of over-extraction of water entitlements?

If you imagine for one moment that this problem is recent, and/or minor, consider the following. On 6 September 2014 Dr John Zeldis, then principal scientist at NIWA was reported in the NZH saying:

"Water in the Firth of Thames has become increasingly acidic because of a build-up of nutrients from rivers which receive run-off from farms on the Hauraki Plains.

Regular measurements taken by Niwa since 2010 show the water has become oversaturated with carbon dioxide, which could endanger the health of shellfish and juvenile fish."

In 2010, they began testing for carbon dioxide and found levels in the Firth were well above the atmospheric level.

Hauraki Gulf Forum manager Tim Higham said the research was one more indicator that showed the gulf was in decline.  

"It's a red flag that we should take pretty seriously."

The findings were followed by a warning last November by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, that continued expansion of dairy farms would further degrade the country's fresh water.

It is 2017, and nothing has changed - Dairy NZ still claims huge progress is being made by farmers investing in fencing, and that education is the answer. Its Chief Executive Tim Marckle is still attacking the messenger - Steve Joy, saying that:

"It is unfair to single out farmers when there were many pollution sources.

I haven't heard Mike Joy say what others should contribute in big cities, small towns - they're all going to be in the firing line."

Call it obfuscation or call it for what it really is - downright and delierate dishonesty.

It is fundamentally the future intrusion of the nitrogen time-bomb into rivers and waterways that is the problem - not some red herring about excrement, or 'swimability.' It is the long term effect of intensification that has led to this situation, and that will not disappear, no matter how many fences are built, unless like Trump's they extend one metre down and can retain nitrates. 

And only more stringent enforcement of existing powers under the RMA will even partially cure that inevitability. You simply cannot educate without a big stick with people who generally don't, or won't accept that they are the problem.

How often does this have to be repeated?

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