Last week Havelock North suffered from an outbreak of campylobacter in its town water supply. 4500 people - a third of the population - got sick, with over 500 registered cases. One person died. Its third world stuff, a basic failure by the city council to do its job, and the government has (rightly) announced an inquiry. But there's one thing they won't be looking at: cows:
Cabinet decided against a two-tier inquiry into Havelock North's water supply that would look at the broader issue of whether farm intensification is to blame.
Cabinet did consider whether to broaden the inquiry to include a second-tier, which would delve into wider national issues, such as farm intensification, and what effect it may be having on the country's water supply.
However, Prime Minister John Key said the terms of reference were already quite broad – but if the inquiry made recommendations on a wider front then the Government would listen to them.
"While there has been some intensification of farming in New Zealand without doubt in recent time, that's been happening for a long time and we haven't seen this issue anywhere else."
"Some" intensification? The number of dairy cows has almost doubled since 1990, from 3.4 to 6.5 million. The amount of shit they're pouring into our rivers has almost doubled as well. We're seeing cow-related bacteria in Patea, Hamner Springs and Christchurch. The Hawkes' Bay has been explicitly linked to ruminant animals, and has literally killed people. The government needs a better reaction than "nothing to see here, move along".
The dairy industry's cows and the resulting dirty waterways are now a direct threat to human life. We need to do something about that threat, before more people die. And if this government won't do it, we need one that will.