It would never happen in New Zealand ….would it?
A government who treats opposition as an irritation to be swept aside, removal of democratically elected councillors, denial of judicial authority, taking from the many to give to the few; a government whom first decided what it wanted, then worked out how to overcome opposition by elimination.
South American dictatorship?
World War II fascist tale?
Well no.......its Canterbury's water wars and a government hellbent on delivering big business a short term profit at the expense of the environment.
Canterbury's water wars are driven by a quantum shift in farming focus and technique. Canterbury's plains have been targeted for development of large scale intensive dairy farming. Out go the family owned dryland grazing and cropping of the last 100 years, in come corporatised interests who clear fell the wind breaks, install pivot irrigation machines, at $½ million each, to crawl across the land, and pump water from where ever they can take it. All regardless of the effects on their neighbours and the common good of healthy streams, aquifers or soil.
After years of farmer dominated regional authority (Ecan) dish outs of water rights, recent elections saw the council 'evened up' between pro-irrigation and conservation interests and with water issues given a high profile in voters awareness, the next election in October would have seen the balance tipped towards conservation. Corporate dairy interests could not afford to let this happen. Its lobby is characterised by an attitude of taking water at all costs. So they convinced the new 'National' led government to 'remove the roadblocks to irrigation and water storage in Canterbury'. As early as September 2009, Agriculture Minister David Carter had decided the Rakaia and forth coming Hurunui Water Conservation Orders were inconvienences which would result in 'suboptimal' irrigation solutions, so he spent the next seven months working out how to beat due process with legislation to cut out the environmental lobby.
Meanwhile the government solicited a joint letter from the regions' mayors, to criticize Ecan, thereby expediting a trumped damning government review of the regional authority.
With no public consultation or warning the bill cleared out 14 elected councillors, replaced them with 7 pro-development government appointed commissioners and sneeked in add-on legislation (only water development companies were aware), which took out Canterburys' Water Conservation Orders. Canterbury is denied the right to advocate for the national importance of its rivers and water bodies. Other provinces can, Canterbury can't.
Thereby such rivers as the Rakaia and the Hurunui are able to be broached for vast new damming and canal schemes. WCO's, which preserve outstanding environmental qualities, give a national parks protection standard for rivers. Work which groups such as Fish & Game have invested years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in, has been wiped out.
So what is immediately proposed ?
$2.5 billion of irrigation infrastructure. An increase from about 500,00 hectares of irrigated area to 950,000, as well as an enormous increase in intensity and reliability. To achieve some of this, plans are laid to ;
Divert more flow from the Wilberforce (a major tributary of the Rakaia).
Raise Lake Coleridge 2 meters
Construct a 25 kilometer long feeder canal to connect Coleridge to a vast new conduit system for the mid Canterbury plains (as proposed by CPW limited)
Multiple dams on the Hurunui, including raising Lake Sumner cyclicly by 2 meters above low for six months or more of the year, killing delicate lake shore forest and altering for ever a landscape of national significance.
A high dam for the South branch which would devastate unmitigatable environment and turn the lower river into a drain.
Control the beautiful Hurunui as an industrial water conduit; (as proposed by HWP Limited).
Mop up any other water which isn't nailed down
Shift Canterbury into a “brave new world' of profit for a few investors, river exhaustion, aquifer depletion and contamination, extreme fertilizer / nutrient runoff and ecoli in public drinking water supplies.
“Sacking Ecan councillors is a 'signal' to all regional councils to work constructively with farmers”
“Accelerating reliable irrigation is a priority” - Minister for Agriculture, David Carter.
“The only way New Zealand can pay the bill is by using the environment” - Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson.