Krysta Neve writes from Canterbury, after experiencing a week of flooding and wild weather.

Photo: Stuff

Did you know that Timaru had the most rainfall this July since they started taking records?! It’s hard to know what’s ‘normal’ weather anymore, and hard to imagine what it will be like for whānau a hundred years from now. You may have seen the headlines, or heard from friends based there, about the extreme heatwaves and wildfires across Europe.

As well as changing temperatures, climate breakdown is destablising complex global systems, with dangerous knock on effects. For people, it’s becoming a health and inequality issue, as much as an environmental issue.

As you may know, the agriculture industry is the biggest emitter of climate harming emissions in Aotearoa. The most damaging are the methane emissions from the dairy industry. If we’re going to stabilise the climate, then agriculture needs to be drawing carbon out of the atmosphere, not polluting it further.

This is why our local group have been campaigning for the regional council Environment Canterbury (ECan) to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser produces twice the emissions of domestic aviation (pre-Covid times). It’s also enabled the dairy intensification of Canterbury. Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser causes huge methane emissions, toxifying rivers and contaminating groundwater with cancer-causing nitrates.

Over 1000 people have so far joined with us and signed our petition calling on ECan to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

Two people stand behind a table with red signs that say Climate Crisis, cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser

As our regional council, ECan has the responsibility and tools to cut the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. They could do this while working with farmers to bring in diverse, locally appropriate farming practices. This would draw carbon out of the atmosphere, build soil fertility and restore the health of our water.

ECan could mitigate and heal the climate damage in Canterbury – but they’re not doing it.

The truth is our local councils aren’t representative of the population. Less than half of eligible voters took part in the 2019 election for ECan candidates. ECan is not taking the necessary steps to protect our environment. They are beholden to dairy farming interests and because of this have an inability to govern well.

Right now, we have the chance to do something about this. Local election season is beginning, so we’re asking candidates to commit to phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Then, when we vote in two months time, we’ll know which candidates for ECan will actually stand up for the environment.

We’re going to be emailing all the candidates, and attending their events to ask: “Will you use your powers to protect climate, river and community health by urgently phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser?”

We’ll also check which candidates have connections to New Zealand’s two biggest fertiliser companies, Ravensdown and Ballance.

You can ask these questions too! Whichever region you live in, every person who asks a candidate to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser matters. Together, this will increase the pressure on regional councils to do what’s needed to stabilise the climate. It’s also important to make sure you and your whānau are enrolled to vote, and they know why it’s important this year.

The Waimakariri River; photo by Greg O’Beirne

By getting involved in the election process, we’ll shape the future that is possible for our region.

Now is the time to call for the phase out of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, and get behind the regenerative farming movement. Successful farming that works with nature not against it is possible, now let’s make it the norm.

We’re a bunch of Cantabrians who care about this issue strongly and are working together alongside the nation-wide Greenpeace campaigning. You can follow our local campaign on our social media! We’re across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Birds eye view of a tractor spraying a ffield
Cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser

Too many cows and too much chemical fertiliser is rapidly polluting the rivers, lakes and drinking water – let’s end the use of the key ingredient, synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

Sign the petition