Watering the thought of sustainability

When is a super dam a good idea, tell us the ways…

1. Are we really talking climate change, like we know what it means?

2. Are we talking revolutionary change in agricultural production necessitated by climate change?

3. Why are we talking loss of native snow tussock country?

4. Why should we seek the imperative to modify the natural landscape in ways that might support the adoption of further non organic, intensive farming practices?

So many questions. So many ecological habitats and microsystems destroyed. How much water do we actually need for the future? They say water is the new gold. It might be, but what is ‘future planning’ and who should be doing it?

So many questions for those who would promote a super dam to the detriment of all else, if they don’t have the whole picture.

So many questions for those who see a business in selling water.

That’s ok you lot…we don’t have the whole picture yet, either. We’ll start to bring that picture to you, Mr Mackie, Cr Wilson and Cr Noone.

DCC first stuck this little glory piece into Thursday’s The Star, community newspaper – like we wouldn’t notice. Or perhaps we were supposed to notice more…

Here come the debates and ructions about what we should be doing to maintain water supply, the compulsion to irrigate, leach and wreck more of New Zealand’s hill country (for yachting, jetboating and float planes???) by not occupying a small ecological footprint.

The Lammerlaws are somewhere behind us where we can’t see them, let’s exploit the gap between metropolitan and academic sensitivities and those ‘in charge’ of the great outdoors. Hey. Just FLOOD IT, folks. What was that about the RMA amendments.

How much water do we need to flush environmental, financial and cultural sustainability down the drain.


### ODT Online Fri, 25 Sep 2009
‘Super dam’ gains support
By Bruce Munro

New Zealand’s biggest dam could be built in the Lammerlaw Range, northwest of Dunedin. Dunedin City Council water and waste services manager John Mackie will be “strongly recommending” the city build a “super dam” when the draft 50-year Three Waters Strategy is released for public consultation in November.
Read more

Post by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Economics, Geography, Hot air, Politics

16 responses to “Watering the thought of sustainability

  1. kate

    Your comments questions the way this came into the public domain. I agree that it is not the right way. I was rung by the journalist for comment – I was shocked to hear of the proposal and very cross that it has come to my attention this way. I will attend with that in a different manner – but the problem that has arisen already is that we get negative or concern issues raised, without first stating what the issue is, how it could be resolved and then prioritising actions. I cannot support this proposal as I do not have any of those facts. It might be a long term solution but announcing it before the research is done is unnecessarily inflammatory.

    The role of staff and Councillors and managment and governance would in this instance seem to be blurred.

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks for posting, Kate. I guess we’ll have to see how the subject progresses in the weeks to come, if as an informed contextualised debate. Staff floating the idea of such a large project concept without first having prepared the ground for all councillors’ consideration (if that is what happened) detours around the council requirement to have elected representatives provide the governance and policy steer. This seems to have opened up too soon into public domain.

  2. Richard

    “This seems to have opened up too soon into public domain.” Well you can say that again! We are, of course, aware of the bacground to the work going on but just how this “got out” is a question that Kate is reasonably asking.

  3. Stu

    Well, the city certainly needs to protect the security and “sustainability” of the water supply and that is climate change related. (Not in the sense of human-generated climate change, just change in general i.e. rainfall patterns shifting. It will take a lot to change a maritime climate into an arid one…)

  4. kate

    Agreed Stu, but a large dam that compounds our reliance on one source of water may not be the answer either. Smaller solutions that reduce the risk, might involve recycling of grey water and expose us less to a catastrophic event eg a fire in the Lammerlaws, might be more prudent. I dont know, but lets get the context right. Moreover it would be a sad day for sustainability if we could water our people and not our crops – so putting more pressure potentially on an irrigation source, to support a City may not be the best idea. It might on the other hand provide a good project providing for both irrigation and urban water supply – but again we need to do a lot more work first.

    The work of the Upper Taieri Water Management Group where there are Council (CODC and ORC), water users, DOC, F&G planning for future water issues in the Upper Taieri is an interesting model to look at where communities are taking ownership of the issues, and trying to find mutually acceptable solutions. It needs to be done in a larger context, not driven by one group’s interest. In rural areas I suggest we have more understanding of water balance and where our water comes from – I would doubt that more than 50% (and that may be generous) of Dunedinites know where their water comes from.

  5. Phil

    Lammerlaw Range. Is that the site of the current Dunedin City urban water intake from Deep Stream ? I get a bit confused with geography around that region. I do know, however, that one of the prime requirements for a Grade “A” water supply is the protection of the water quality at its source. Could that potentially be compromised with the construction of a large holding pond ?

    The environmental issues are something else. Do we really want to end up with overfarmed areas as exhibited in both Canterbury and Southland. I recall reading, not so long ago, that 100% of the open waterways in Southland are now unfit to drink. As a direct result of intensive farming.

  6. Phil

    The suburb of Rouse Hill in Sydney has reduced its water consumption by 40%, through the use of treated recycled water. Wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, just as in Dunedin. However, once treated, the water is not pumped out into the ocean, but is fed back into the area, using a second reticulated piping system. The treatment plant in that area is currently capable of supplying 36,000 homes with recycled water.

    If the water currently being discharged into the Pacific Ocean from the Tahuna plant is of the quality being touted by the operators, then there is no reason why it can’t be reused again by the city. Instead of throwing it away. A 40% reduction in the demand for water, is the same thing as having a 40% increase in supply. If the water is already there, we don’t need a dam. We just need to be smart.

  7. kate

    Phil there is a substantial difference in some irrigation and lots of irrigation – and I am not talking just about for animals – if it gets drier how are we going to ensure basic food supply for animals, crops and even horticultural products near Dunedin. There are plenty of examples of good irrigation practices on the taieri River – granted there are also some bad ones!
    My point really was that you need to plan for all water demand, not just that for human consumption. Moreover if we have a problem with storage surely we should also look at conservation methods and not giving the expectation that gardens will always be watered, cars always washed in water hungry methods, and other ‘wasteful’ use to decrease demand and therefore increase the storage capacity that we have.
    Nor am I suggesting it is one over the other – but since the DCC has not extended its thinking into rural demand nor irrigation demand it has not thought of the need to balance takes on the river for urban use with the rural demands and for the ecological flows required.
    Many groups are doing that now and planning for a balanced approach.

    Your suggestions about what Australia are doing are great and we should start athinking of those sort of solutions as well and see what is best and most cost effective for our situation.

  8. Phil

    I’m never convinced that planning for demand is the correct approach. And I know you didn’t intend it as simply as that, Kate. In so many areas we have built around the demand, without too much thought about whether that demand is fair and reasonable to all. Before catering for new ventures, should we not be ensuring first that the existing ventures are being operated and managed as efficiently as possible? Are we getting the best today that we can from our existing resources?

    The Sydney example showed that load on the primary resource actually fell. Without any drop in the quality or quantity of the service. Simply by ensuring that all current process were the best available. If we tidy up what we’re doing today, first, maybe we might find we’re a lot better prepared than we thought we were.

    Urban demands are relatively stable, we’re unlikely to suddenly grow our population by 50%. So any significant change in demand is going to come from the rural sector. And, as you say, there is the uncertainty of supply, as there is with any natural resource. So we do need to do something.

    Maybe there needs to be a checklist for farmers, to confirm that they know and understand how to implement the changes in farming practices that today’s environment requires. I’m tired of hearing the drawn out line “I’ve been farming for 40 years”. To me, that’s the worst kind of farmer. Maybe there should be a compulsary annual registration of farmers, in order for them to be able to sell commercially. Such a registration could include a CPD points programme in the same way that ensures engineers and architects always understand latest practices. It’s something that the big players, such as Fonterra, could drive and enforce. As the main purchaser. You can’t work in the Dunedin Public Hospital without going through their accreditation programme first. It’s the same idea.

    Should we be providing extra resources into lands that may not be viable? As a right? Some land is just not suited for extensive or intensive agriculture. There’s usually a reason why no one has had any success there before. And to try and make it so is just throwing good money after bad. While putting other, more viable areas at risk at the same time. By depleting the resource for limited gain. We’ve all driven through South Canterbury on the way to Christchurch and seen the water pumps firing away over empty paddocks, 24 hours a day. Some things are just not meant to be, and they are only buying time against ultimate failure. In the case of the Canterbury ground water supply, that day is almost here.

    It was a little foolhardy of John to burst into print like that. Before we’ve even determined if we have a problem that needs to be fixed. Or whether it can be resolved by better and smarter resource management. I can see that, if we supply more, and change nothing, we’ll just waste more. It has to be a two pronged approach.

  9. kate

    I agree with you Phil in respect to the Sydney example. However as a rural person I do take issue with your comments on the farmers who have been doing it for 40 years – one only has to look at the large conservation estate recently purchased from long-term farmers to see that it had been maintained with ecological values – so much so DOC wanted them. It is the new, largely corporate, farmers that have changed land use patterns and practices. Some will call that progress, others would say that the old timers knew a thing or two about weather patterns and how things can change. With drier seasons we all need to change our practices, but also ensure that we are all viable and that is where we need everyone talking together, not individually.

  10. kate

    To add to the above – it is oddly DOC who have in many instances driven intensification of farms beside waterways by the taking of high country and requiring the farms on the lowland to find a new balance. I once asked a conservator about that and he claimed waterways were not his interest.

    • Elizabeth

      It was very probably government TRICKLE DOWN that started DCC’s John Mackie off (see post at top of thread).
      No, I’m not surprised. Think about all the local government (policy/management/plotting) groupie sessions – on the way to (we suppose) privatising water systems and supplies.
      Life is too expensive when EVERYTHING ‘corporatises’.

      ### Yahoo!Xtra News November 19, 2009, 6:33 am
      PM expects new water schemes for South Island
      Prime Minister John Key says he is looking forward to new water storage schemes being built soon in the South Island. “I’m really confident you’ll see water storage capability built in the South Island next year,” he told a Federated Farmers meeting in Wellington yesterday. NZPA
      Read more

      This story featured in the print and digital edition of the Otago Daily Times today (page 3).

  11. Phil

    I wonder how much of this is influenced by the new “3 waters” manager in the DCC, who I understand is ex Anglia Water. That area of the UK privatised their water supply, which created no end of controversy and strife. Essentially the supply of water went on the open market, with the highest bidder taking the lion’s share. Smaller towns, which had previously rightfully enjoyed a secure water supply, found themselves reliant on water trucked in by central government. I don’t know if it ever resolved itself properly.

    That being said, I personally don’t have a problem with the idea of water metering. We are 2 people in a 350k dollar rated house, paying more for our water than our neighbours who are 6 people in a 250k dollar rated house. PROVIDING, the unit rate of water remains unchanged from the current rated system, and PROVIDING that the entire water supply portion is removed from my rating account.

    • Elizabeth

      Metering can be very educational for users, in terms of the great awakening it brings to most on their water usage/wastage.

      The older I get the more presbyterian I become with water use.
      [er yes!? gone are my days turning on the big golf sprinkler and trickle irrigators all night… during hosing restrictions to get my trees established]

      • Elizabeth

        Then, more plant design if you can’t grow trees, or don’t have a river… is it edible like seaweed.

        ### Dezeen November 18th, 2009 11:23 am
        Rainforest by Patrick Nadeau for Boffi
        By Ruth Hynes
        French designer Patrick Nadeau has created an installation for Italian brand Boffi, consisting of hanging domes covered in living plants. Called Rainforest, the installation comprises a series of Corian frames held together with cable ties. A type of hanging Spanish moss called Tillandsias usneoïdes, which doesn’t need soil, is draped over these frames. The domes are suspended from the ceiling and used to light the Boffi product displays. The installation was displayed during Designer’s Days in Paris, the London Design Festival and Milano Design-in-the-City.
        Read more + JUST GREAT PHOTOS

  12. Richard

    The 3 Waters Strategy is not yet in final form. When it is, and Council has considered it, it will almost certainly go out for consultation under the Special Consultative Procedures.

    From the working reports that have come to ISCom (all public), I am impressed by the approach led by John Mackie. It is thoroughly professional and I am certain the outcome will serve us well.

    One thing we do know. Metering will come. When no-one knows but the only thing to drive it will be the need for water conservation. As John Mackie and others have pointed out, Dunedin presently has “plenty of water” so such a step could be years away.

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