New Zealand needs large industry players like Fonterra to show leadership on the issue of water quality, the Green Party said today.
Fonterra has applied for a 22 year extension to dump waste into the Mangatainoka River - a tributary of the Manawatu River - despite signing up to the Manawatu Leaders' Accord to clean up the river. Meanwhile AFFCO meatworks continues to dump waste into the Wairoa River in Hawkes Bay.
"We are facing a water quality crisis and we need big industries to show leadership to address it," Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.
"Fonterra's argument in its resource consent application is essentially that the Mangatainoka is so polluted now that continuing to add the pollution from the Pahiatua processing plant will make little difference. This is an attitude that will leave our rivers polluted forever.
"If we keep doing what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we've always got - polluted rivers.
"Fonterra's approach directly contravenes what it has signed up to in the Manawatu Leaders' Accord.
"Water is the number one environmental issue for many New Zealanders. We love our rivers and we want to protect them so that our kids can enjoy their birthright to swim and fish in them.
"But this heritage is at risk from the continuing degradation of water quality. There is strong support for efforts to clean up our polluted rivers and lakes, but this means big industry players have to move beyond business as usual.
"There are alternatives to dumping this waste in the river. It can be sprayed onto land as irrigation near the plant, as Fonterra does elsewhere. Dumping it into the river for the next 22 years will do nothing to help clean up the river."
Dr Norman noted that point-source pollution was not the largest source of pollution to waterways, but said that addressing these instances set a good precedent for addressing non-point source pollution from intensive dairy farming and agribusiness.
"Fonterra is the face of dairy farmers all around the country, and a great many of these farmers are making real efforts to clean up our rivers. If Fonterra commits to taking water quality seriously at the highest level, it sends a clear message to its members to support those farmers taking a lead.
"It's also vital to our dairy industry and the rest of our economy that we get this right. Our natural environment is the foundation of our economy. We need to build on this foundation, not undermine it by condoning wide-spread pollution of our rivers and lakes.
"Our environment is our economy, and we need to love it and protect it," Dr Norman said.