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Source: Greenpeace


Locals concerned about the harms of intensive farming on Canterbury waterways are organising themselves to protect the region’s water. A local group has launched a new campaign to push Environment Canterbury (ECan) to cut the use of synthetic fertiliser.


“Too much chemical fertiliser supports too many cows, which is polluting the rivers, lakes and drinking water,” said campaign spokesperson Krysta Neve. “ECan has the responsibility for environmental health, and has the power to end synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use.”


Neve said synthetic fertiliser use drives the degradation of rivers, threatening the survival of native fish species, and threatens human health. 


A scientific study in 2021 showed nitrate contamination of drinking water could cause up to 100 cases of bowel cancer and 40 deaths from the disease in New Zealand every year.


“Everybody should be able to trust that the water from their kitchen tap is safe to drink. But for many of us – particularly in rural areas – that’s not the case,” said Neve.


Neve said that few regions have seen dairy intensity like Canterbury has – and as a result has worsening nitrate water contamination rates and one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the country.


“The latest IPCC report on climate change also underlines how ECan must urgently get real and tackle our biggest climate polluter, intensive dairy,” said Neve.


Two big chemical companies, Ravensdown and Ballance, responsible for distributing 98% of New Zealand’s synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. 


“ECan policies are enabling these climate criminals to pollute waterways and the climate . ECan needs to change course and remove any support for this toxic trade,” said Neve.


“ECan can make a huge difference by cutting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, lower cow numbers and support farmers to shift to more plant-based, regenerative organic farming, to address both the climate and biodiversity crises.”


A public poll released in February shows twice as many people support a phase out of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser than oppose it.


“ECan Councillors have the power to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use. This year we will be showing them they have a public mandate to protect our waterways and encouraging people to vote on this issue in the local elections in September,” said Neve.

The online petition