I've never seen Nick Smith swimming

Bovine latrine or national treasure? Environment Minister Nick Smith poses beside a creek near Nelson.
CHERIE SIVIGNON

Bovine latrine or national treasure? Environment Minister Nick Smith poses beside a creek near Nelson.

OPINION: I half expected to see him one late summer evening, ouch-ouch-ouching his way barefoot across the hot stones and bristly dry grass in a pair of Speedos, heading for the river.

The Maitai river, to be precise. Because Nick Smith and I share the same swimming holes, the same streets, the same town.

He is, alas, the MP for Nelson, and I, a local citizen. When he's not up in the Beehive, Smith sits just up the road from my house in his Electorate Office, his brainbox smoking with the effort of trying to convince swimmers, fishers, kayakers and iwi that our waterways aren't just a gigantic dunny for cows.

Does Nick Smith swim? Probably not. I suspect he knows too much about bovine faecal coliform counts.

Nelson's Maitai River "is my solace and my salvation, my chill-out zone, my happy place", says Grant Smithies.
BRADEN FASTIER/FAIRFAX NZ

Nelson's Maitai River "is my solace and my salvation, my chill-out zone, my happy place", says Grant Smithies.

READ MORE:
* The new 'swimmable' target: Nick Smith defends his plan
* No longer swimmable: A community mourns its lost river
* The thorny politics of 'swimmable', a word losing its meaning
* Our freshwater health crisis - preventive medicine urgently needed

I, on the other hand, spend each summer chucking myself into local swimming holes most evenings before tea. The river is my solace and my salvation, my chill-out zone, my happy place.

Consequently, I took Smith's recent policy pronouncements on water quality very personally, though I'll admit, I admired his chutzpah.

Who else in Parliament would have the balls to promote a Next Steps For Fresh Water document whose central plank was to reclassify crappy "wadeable" waterways to "swimmable", while admitting a "small percentage" of brave swimmers might get sick?

After all, simply stating something does not make it so; that's why you'll never hear me referring to self-ordained Auckland preacher Brian Tamaki as "Bishop".

Found wanting: Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Found wanting: Environment Minister Nick Smith.

A few weeks back, I was on RNZ National blathering about music when a news story aired on Smith's ridiculous water proposals. I couldn't hold my tongue.

"What if I were to unilaterally upgrade my own appearance from 'short, pudgy and funny looking' to 'wildly handsome'?", I blurted to Nine To Noon host Kathryn Ryan.

"You could do that, but a small percentage of the population might still find you repulsive," she said, quick as a fox.

It was a nice line, and I chortled like a schoolboy. But nice lines and good humour are nowhere to be found in Smith's water discussion document.

Ad Feedback

Instead, there's acres of maps, little graphs and ironic images of pristine mountain streams unclogged by leached nitrates or hereford poop.

There are daring feats of sophistry and twisty leaps of logic. There are more weasel words than you might hear at a used car yard called Honest John's Autos.

The document is designed to cajole and confuse. Like an overflowing milking shed effluent pit, a ripe pong wafts up from the pages; you sense Smith's desperation to be seen to be doing something to stem the tide of public opprobrium over the foul state of our waterways, but without putting any brakes on runaway dairy expansionism.

But we are not fools, and we're losing patience. We don't want our Environment Minister acting as apologist for the dairy industry, and we can't wait until 2040 for meaningful improvement to our dying waterways.

With an election imminent, a new rallying cry now echoes around the swimming holes of Nelson, and it goes like this: Give Nick the flick.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback