Answer? A fresh water crisis.

Gone are the days of Aussies telling Kiwi sheep jokes. In the past 20 years, sheep,  pine trees and shrub have made way for more and more cows,  mostly for intensive dairying.   At the same time our lakes, rivers and aquifers are becoming more and more polluted.  

You don’t have to be the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to put two and two together there. (Although she did do that in this report).

5 million cows and their impact on our fresh water could easily become just another statistic if it wasn’t for everyday Kiwis willing to step up and take action to protect our waters.

Recently shocked trampers snapped shots of cows standing in lakes and rivers in Canterbury and Otago and sent them in to the media, clearly showing just how inadequate the regulations and enforcements are when it comes to cows.  The fine in Canterbury is a measly $750.  In Otago the Council has no rules in place to stop cattle using our rivers and lakes as a toilet.   

Central Government’s legislation around water quality is not much better.  Currently our rivers and lakes are allowed to become so polluted that they pose a “moderate risk” of infection when people are wading in them.   That means if you happen to want to swim instead of wade you’ll have to do so at your own risk.  

If the law allows cows to shit in the rivers and sets the benchmark for water quality as wadeable rather than swimmable, then it is time to change the law.

Four inspiring young Kiwis, Marnie, Kyleisha, Paul and Geoff are doing just that.  They are campaigning to set a standard for fresh water so that we can swim safely without the risk of getting sick.   They are travelling the length of the country documenting people’s stories of the fresh water crisis and getting support for the petition which they will hand into Parliament at the end of the tour.  

To get out of this fresh water crisis more of us are going to need to take inspiration and courage from people like the media savvy trampers and the four young campaigners.  

We are going to need to challenge those who are taking New Zealand’s clean fresh water and polluting it for their own private profit.