Parker bounces back in freshwater forum

David Parker
David Parker
David Parker allowed his gaffe from Tuesday's debate to wash away and shone during last night's Dunedin forum on freshwater policies.

The Labour Party's deputy leader drew several rounds of applause and cheers from a passionate crowd of more than 100 people at the Dunningham Room at the Dunedin City Library yesterday as he outlined the party's policies on freshwater management, including a plan to strip the profit margins from hydroelectricity generation and to impose a ''resource rental'' on agricultural waterway users.

Moving on from Tuesday's reference to ''low value'' immigrants and in a possible preview of the working relationship between the two parties, he and Green Party water spokeswoman Eugenie Sage found common ground and set to picking apart Dunedin-based National list MP Michael Woodhouse's knowledge of National's platform for freshwater.

Mr Woodhouse conceded freshwater policy was not his strength and offered no answers to several questions.

When asked by an audience member about national state of the environment reporting, he conceded: ''I'm not sure what you are referring to ... so I'm probably about to get bagged for something I don't quite understand''.

When asked if trout and salmon would be excluded from an amended Resource Management Act, he replied - ''No I don't know, but I can find out''.

And when pushed by a freshwater ecologist on whether doubling the value of exports by 2025 would come at the expense of freshwater systems under the new national policy statement (NPS) for freshwater management, he said: ''The short answer to the second part of the question, no I'm not sure''.

Mr Woodhouse stated several times throughout the debate that the NPS did not allow further degradation of waterways, and Mr Parker and Ms Sage made it a point of contention.

''I just want to qualify ... I said it [water quality] couldn't drop and I want to qualify that because yes it [the NPS] does allow it to decline if there is an equal improvement elsewhere in the region ... while that might not be likely, it can't be ruled out.''

Mr Woodhouse said National's policies had provided a framework for improvement of some waterways and maintenance of ''overall'' water quality and allowed communities to decide what they felt was the most appropriate state for their waterways.

Mr Parker said parochialism could be used to improve water quality if the community bought into the concept.

''I have long held the view that the most important river to anyone is your local river ... if all of our `local' rivers are clean then all our rivers are clean,'' he said.

Ms Sage said the Green Party and Labour Party also had common ground in agreeing river health should be measured by the ability to swim in it.

''We think people share our view that rivers should be fit for fishing and fit for swimming and not just for boating and wading.''

Dunedin City councillor Mike Lord questioned Mr Parker and Ms Sage on their ''resource rental'' policies and asked ''why should one sector of the rural community pay for water when everyone in town gets it for free?''.

Neither candidate addressed the question directly, although Mr Parker said the finer details of policy had not yet been finalised and there would be a ''domestic use allowance'' for all households, rural and urban.

The loudest applause was reserved for  Logan Park High School pupil Ben Cravens (18) who asked Mr Woodhouse as a member of the governing party - ''What things are you putting in place to make sure people like me and my children don't get stuck with the bill for cleaning up your mess?''.

Mr Woodhouse said National was ''investing half a billion dollars already into clean-ups, we are setting the national bottom-lines, we are giving communities the opportunity to have their say about what those environmental standards for clean water should be and we are having conversations like this''.

Water is free

Farmers already pay for the water infrastructure to their farms. They shouldn't have to pay for the water as well - it's a free natural resource which no-one owns but does need managed by the Government (which is already increasingly the case). No one owns it. Not the Labour party, not the government, not the iwi.