1492044594526 - Farmers set sights on wildfowl and their fouling of rivers

Farmers set sights on wildfowl and their fouling of rivers

OPINION: Recently I penned a column on Fish & Game New Zealand’s responsibility to protect native flora and fauna to enhance water quality. I couldn’t help thinking the response on April 4 from Fish & Game leader Bryce Johnson was much like how dairy farmers reacted when he first launched his “Dirty Dairying” campaign.

It was angry, confused and he was completely in denial about the fact that wildfowl contribute a huge amount to our freshwater quality problems.

So, I guess that I will formally ask the question: Does Fish & Game have a policy regarding the control of wildfowl e-coli into our waterways?

It’s not enough for Bryce to state that birds have been here forever so there’s not a problem, as the science is showing otherwise. One example of the potential problem can be found on the Taranaki Regional Council’s website, where DNA testing of samples revealed the two sites deemed “unacceptable” for swimming in February were due to contamination by wildfowl.

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It has been estimated that one wildfowl will excrete 6.5 times more e-coli into a waterway than one cow.

There is also some great work done by AgResearch and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research that also has some surprising facts and data around e-coli and wildfowl.

However much farmers and landowners attempt to deal with the problem (under the Resource Management Act land owners must mitigate environmental impacts) there is currently legislation that gives Fish & Game powers to stop landowners and farmers from being able to manage the situation and control some of these bird numbers.

With that in mind perhaps it isn’t really a question for Fish & Game but for central Government, as they are also the entity driving the improved water quality standards and legislation. As a dairy farmer I am in complete agreement with the vision and goal of cleaner, clearer water for all. But all parts of the community must play their role with achieving these goals, and that includes Fish & Game.

Don’t get me wrong, I think most of the 12 regional Fish & Game councils do fantastic work and have their local communities’ values and aspirations close to heart.  But some of this seems to get lost at a national level and the organisation’s leadership would do well to look in their own backyard and realise that wildfowl can create problems for water quality.

The other question I asked was ‘what is the Fish & Game policy around protecting our native biodiversity, specifically fish life from the likes of trout?’ Trouts’ impact on biodiversity was commented on in the report on water quality released this week by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman.

Interestingly Fish & Game themselves are aware of how many koura (native crayfish) trout consume, and that this amount dramatically increases as the water temperature increases. As our water quality improves I would like to think that our native fish species would be allowed the opportunity to flourish, but this may not be the case.

It would be interesting to hear from Fish & Game at a governance level on this. They need to acknowledge that there is a problem and start being part of the solution, as dairy farmers did all those years ago.

As the Feds’ spokesperson on water issues, Chris Allen, said this week in response to the Gluckman report, that Federated Farmers’ long-held view is that while farming activity is part of the water quality problem, it is by no means the whole problem.

“All sectors, including urban communities with sewage and stormwater challenges, need to be given time to implement changes that are sensible, practical and affordable,” Chris said.

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