Dairying rivers 'must be swimmable': Ngai Tahu

Last updated 11:14 05/03/2014
mark solomon
WATER TALKS: Ngai Tahu chairman Sir Mark Solomon talks to South Canterbury local government representatives about the importance of the environment.

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Ngai Tahu chairman Sir Mark Solomon says rivers must remain swimmable at a minimum, but the iwi also wants to be at the forefront of sustainable dairying.

Sir Mark was speaking to an audience at the Timaru District Council chambers yesterday.

Representatives from the Timaru, Waimate, Mackenzie and Waitaki district councils attended.

He said the iwi's views on agricultural expansion were a "microcosm" of society's.

"There are those within the tribe who don't want to see another dairy cow ... and there are those that want to see massive expansion.

"Ngai Tahu is committed to the rivers' wellbeing ... when we submitted to the Ministry for the Environment, we asked that they set a minimum limit that all freshwater rivers aspire to be swimmable. They want the definition to be wadeable, but if you talk to a kid, he doesn't just wade, he dives straight into the water."

In 2010, Ngai Tahu Property was given a mandate by the wider tribe to develop three pilot dairy farms at Eyrewell, in Canterbury. The properties each run 1200 cows. Sir Mark said this project could expand, but at every stage it would be working closely with Lincoln University. He expected the partnership to last at least 20 years.

"We have to be at the forefront of best practice. None of this comes cheap, but we know we have to do it. The environmental impacts will last more than a few years."

As part of the project, there would be enough native planting to cover "300 football fields", while each farm would use the best monitoring technology available.

"This is all very hi-tech, and will be built from the ground up."

However, he reiterated Ngai Tahu's core philosophy of considering the whole of the environment "from the mountains to the sea".

"You cannot look at nature as separate compartments ... what we do on the land affects what goes into our rivers," he said.

Sir Mark said the Canterbury Water Management Strategy's focus on collaboration was very much in line with Ngai Tahu's own principles.

"But it is not without its challenges. Our representatives are pulled hither and thither [to attend meetings]," he said.

However, he said the alternative was an overly adversarial approach.

"So often, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation don't sit together [and share information]. It's a nonsense."

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- The Timaru Herald


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