Adams well linked to land of milk and money

RACHEL STEWART
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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OPINION: There is no way around it. So many juicy, meaty, leggy stories originate from the blogosphere these days.

Bloggers often snootily assert that the mainstream media are just not doing enough of the hard journalistic yards. I have to concur.

Whether it's lack of resources or by design, I cannot say.

Despite my critics finding me "too radical", what I do know is that I am viewed by the alternative media as mainstream media - by virtue of the fact that I write for a newspaper, and get paid to do so.

Anyway, that's a whole different subject.

Why it relates here is that I have never seen any media outlet report on one particular story that's not exactly been a mystery.

Yet, it takes a blogger to raise it.

Often, there are many such stories. Sometimes they are barely much more than conspiracy theories. Other times they are just not fully formed enough to go anywhere. Bloggers in general are not trained journalists.

However, increasingly they deliver excellent stories with great legs and detailed research to back up their claims.

Because it stuck out like a shining beacon in the snow, I'll use one example by James Dann, a Canterbury-based blogger working towards his PhD in molecular biology.

It's also a subject dear to my own suspicious, dark heart.

While we're all busy focusing on Justice Minister Judith Collins and Orivida, other distinct conflicts of interest, especially relating to dairy, are happening all around us.

This one involves Environment Minister Amy Adams and her maze of connections to dairy farming interests and irrigation.

I'm not saying for one minute that she shouldn't own dairy farms.

However, her role as minister for the environment while doing so is nothing short of a farce. I say this with the emphasis squarely on the word "environment".

Further than that is the financial benefit she will gain from her holdings in Mid Canterbury being in the area covered by the contentious Central Plains Water (CPW) scheme. Irrigation, in other words.

Canterbury water issues are legion. Environment Canterbury's elected councillors were undemocratically sacked by the National Government in 2010 and replaced with commissioners.

According to the Government, they were "dysfunctional" and too slow making decisions on water issues.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act later proved otherwise. Indeed, it was more about the vested dairy-farming interests lobbying on access to more water.

In her role as Environment Minister, Amy Adams had the power to dismantle the Water Conservation Order (akin to a national park on water) that had been placed on the Rakaia River back in 1988.

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Adams duly achieved this last year and the Rakaia can now feed the CPW scheme to irrigate an area of the Canterbury Plains between it and the Hororata Rivers.

Without the removal of the Water Conservation Order, the whole project would have been unable to proceed.

Work on the highly contentious CPW scheme is about to begin. One of the myriad problems has been a lack of funding.

However, the ever-generous National Government has stepped up with the $400 million needed and Bob's your uncle.

But wait. There's more.

To quote my blogger here, the "2010 share register of Central Plains Water Limited shows that a company called AMDON Farms Limited owned 801 shares in CPW, doubling to 1602 shares in 2011. Amy Adams is a director and co-owner, along with her husband Robert Donald Adams".

You see irrigation increases the value of land considerably - particularly in areas like Canterbury with ongoing dairy conversions and a lack of water. Not only does she directly benefit from that, but she also owns shares in the scheme as well.

To say that Adams hasn't abused her role would be a big stretch, in my view. She responded to a journalist's question about the blog by calling the story "pretty gutter politics". Code for it really got up her nose.

It appears she declared her shares in the CPW scheme and, according to her press secretary, there has been only one Cabinet decision relating to the irrigation scheme and she excused herself from the Cabinet committee when it was discussed and took no part in the discussions.

My intelligent rebuttal? Wooptido! I'm glad she seemingly did it by the book - only National knows the real answer - but it doesn't alter the notion that any reasonable person can perceive a pattern here.

Adams stands to gain from every decision that's been made. From ECan's sacking of councillors, the CPW irrigation scheme and, lest we forget, her push to change the Resource Management Act.

All of it, every single bit, is designed to ease the way for the continued mass expansion of dairy in this country. I think you know my, and most New Zealanders', views on that.

In terms of our blogger, I thank him for his story.

Sometimes it's just about sheer persistence.

And that's something any mainstream journalist can learn.

CLARIFICATION:

In this article Taranaki Daily News columnist Rachel Stewart raised questions about the links between Environment Minister Amy Adams and the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme in Canterbury.

The column suggested the minister had the power to dismantle a Water Conservation Order so that the Rakaia River could feed that irrigation scheme, and this decision would benefit farm holdings she owned.

The Taranaki Daily News acknowledges the minister had no such power.

Rachel Stewart wrote the Minister had done things "by the book" but also suggested that to say the Minister had not abused her role would be "a big stretch".

The Taranaki Daily News acknowledges that Minister Adams declared a pecuniary interest in the Central Plains Water scheme and transferred her responsibilities as Environment Minister to Minister Gerry Brownlee in April 2012.

We also acknowledge there has only been one Cabinet decision made regarding the Central Plains Water Scheme and on that occasion, Mr Brownlee took the paper to the relevant Cabinet committee. Ms Adams, who does not own a dairy farm in Canterbury, excused herself from the Cabinet committee where it was discussed, and took no part in the discussions.

- Taranaki Daily News

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