Friday, April 12, 2024

Southland Feds slam ‘toxic’ behaviour from Fish & Game

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Federated Farmers in Southland takes aim at Fish & Game for allegedly dragging their feet on addressing gravel buildup in the region’s rivers.
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Gravel build-up in Southland rivers is a disaster waiting to happen and Fish & Game need to stop blocking consent to extract before it’s too late, Federated Farmers Southland says. 

Provincial president Chris Dillon says gravel washed down from the mountains and out of the banks is building up in river channels and corners, increasing the risk of flooding events as time goes on. 
“In that massive flooding event of 2020, the Mataura River flooded on 150mm of rain. Last September, it flooded nearly as badly but with only 75mm of rain, and it’s all down to the rivers being clogged. 

“We urgently need the regional council to extract or move gravel in parts of all catchments in Southland, but Fish & Game are continuing to oppose resource consent without even being able to offer a logical explanation.” 

Dillon likens the situation to what has happened with Waituna Lagoon, on the southern coast of Southland. 

The lagoon needed to be opened up under emergency powers earlier this month to help prevent what Environment Southland called ‘imminent, severe ecological harm’ from an algal bloom.

Listen to “Feds Focus | Southland Feds slam ‘toxic’ behaviour from Fish & Game” on Spreaker.

The Lake Waituna Control Association had applied for resource consent so the lagoon could be opened to the ocean periodically.

“But come hell or high water, Fish & Game would not stop roadblocking that consent, which meant the lagoon’s condition deteriorated and the toxic algal bloom levels got so high that even the ducks wouldn’t land on it,” Dillon says. 

“For Fish & Game to let that lagoon get into such a terrible state is a disgrace. Their toxic behaviour down here is leading to toxic waterways.
“And here we go again with the gravel deposits – Fish & Game are putting up the same roadblocks.”

Dillon fears nothing will happen with the gravel deposits until the region is faced with an emergency, as happened with Waituna Lagoon. 

“Do we have to wait until the next flood when one of the towns gets severely damaged before emergency powers are used to do something about the gravel? Why can’t we get a bit of logic and common sense going and just clear it now?”

Environment Southland’s catchment division has applied for a global consent to extract gravel and, if granted, it would cover multiple locations but would not permit farmers to remove gravel themselves.

Southland Fish & Game manager Zane Moss has been quoted as saying the group, as an affected party, hasn’t signed off on the consent because it wants the regional council to “take a more holistic approach to river management”.

Speaking to Stuff in March last year, Moss said Fish & Game would rather see gravel extraction approached on a case-by-case basis rather than globally.

Farmers are frustrated at how long it’s taking the regional council to get moving, Dillon says.  

“The global consent would allow Environment Southland to deal with gravel on a case-by-case basis, but without the unnecessary downtime, cost and beaucaracy involved with getting consent for each loaction.

“They keep telling us they’re working on ‘a strategic gravel management policy’ that’s supported by all stakeholders, and that they need more data on what’s happening in the rivers, but it could be months before we see consent granted. 

“Fish & Game need to get out of the way and the council need to get cracking before the next flood comes along.”  

Dillon says Federated Farmers Southland want to have a constructive relationship with Fish & Game.

“We really want to work with these guys. Although we won’t always see eye to eye on everything, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a decent relationship and get things done. 

“But when they say ‘no’ to absolutely everything, usually without a clear reason, how are we supposed to take them seriously or value their work? 

“It’s time for Fish & Game down here to pull their heads in. If they’re not going to be part of the solution, get out of the way.” 

Dillon says, ultimately, if Fish & Game’s behaviour doesn’t change, it may force a law change so that communities can safely protect themselves from floods without the hassle of dealing with toxic NGOs.

Federated Farmers Southland have been engaging with politicians on this issue, he says. 

“It was great to see the National/NZ First Coalition Agreement commit to cut red tape and regulatory blocks on irrigation, water storage, managed aquifer recharge and flood protection schemes. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”

Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.

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