Havelock contamination scandal not a one off

Press release - May 10, 2017
Greenpeace is warning of more Havelock North’s if New Zealand doesn't start managing the intersection between industrial agriculture and water.

Today, the Government revealed the preliminary results of an inquiry into the contamination which made 5,500 Hawke’s Bay people sick.  The infected drinking water contributed to the deaths of three others.

The report puts the likely blame on sheep faeces getting into a bore used for drinking water after heavy rain.

“The science suggests this is going to happen again if the latest health reports are anything to go by,” says Greenpeace campaigner, Amanda Larsson.

Forty per cent of New Zealanders rely on groundwater for drinking. Concerned about the growing incidence of animal borne diseases, Greenpeace has been preparing its own report on the problem of water contamination from industrial agriculture.

Larsson says the initial research indicates that Canterbury is one of the most likely places for another outbreak. That’s due to the proliferation of intensive dairy farming on leaky soils.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of animal borne diseases in the developed world. Notified cases are high compared to Australia, the UK, Germany and the USA.

“A strong correlation is emerging between increasing incidences of gastrointestinal illnesses and the rapid growth of intensive dairy farming over the last two decades,” she says.

“It’s also fitting that on the very same day in Hawke’s Bay, a review on the Ruataniwha irrigation dam was also presented down the road in Napier.

“These two issues are related: There is now a very clear link between the growth of intensive livestock production and increased pollution of rivers and lakes.”

Irrigation schemes such as these are underpinning the expansion of industrial agriculture and intensive dairying in particular.

“The Government and regional councils need to wake up to the fact that these things are all linked,” Larsson says. “Irrigation leads to more intensive livestock farming, which leads to sick rivers and sick people.”

Government and the farming industry need to look at more sustainable, less intensive ways of farming that reduce effects on waterways and public health.