Agricultural intensification has led to an environmental crisis in New Zealand, with irrigation and farm waste effectively privatising our rivers into sewers for greedy farmers. But its not just our water the farmers are stealing - in Canterbury, they're stealing our land as well:
The fringes of some Canterbury rivers have been absorbed into expanding farms, resulting in the loss of thousands of hectares of public land to private development.
The issue – known as "agricultural encroachment" – has happened incrementally over several decades, and is adding to the many pressures facing the region's internationally significant braided rivers and the rare ecosystems they host.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) research found that nearly 12,000 hectares of Canterbury's river margins had been taken over by intensive farming between 1990 and 2012.
About 60 per cent of that land was developed through private land sales, but nearly one-quarter was public reserve land effectively privatised and developed.
Authorities in charge of public land all acknowledged that land had been taken and developed without permission.
None of them were able to quantify how much, and in some cases, the encroacher was allowed to keep the land after meeting certain conditions.
These land thefts have prevented public recreational use of rivers, destroyed local ecosystems and threatened rare indigenous species. And by permitting the thieves to normalise their tenure, government agencies have been rewarding and encouraging this theft.
This isn't acceptable. This is public land and it should stay public. Farmers who try and steal it should not be rewarded. Instead, they should be prosecuted and jailed, just as you or I would be if we stole part of someone's backyard.