Water quality improving but soil still major concern

The recently released LAWA report on national river water quality trends showed encouraging signs for the state of our national rivers, but as Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Raine says, there is still much to be done for soil.

Speaking to Jaime McKay on The Country on Tuesday, Raine said that although water quality is a vital issue, the state of our soil should also be at the forefront of national discussions around environmental well being:

"I think both subjects are of equal importance to not only the rural sector but the urban sector as well. A lot of the focus has been on water quality but I think, quite rightly, there should be more focus on protecting our soil, because at the end of the day- that's the stuff you've got to mix with water to grow anything"

Raine referred to the Our Land 2018 report published by the Ministry for the Environment last week, in which 33% of sites tested had phosphorous levels that were too high, and 43% had macroporosity levels that were too low (macroporosity indicates soil compaction). The report additionally showed a yearly soil loss of 192 million tonnes through erosion, 44% of that coming from pastures. 

A big issue, as McKay pointed out during the interview, is land use. We've seen a ten percent increase in the total size of our towns and cities in the past twenty years, and a ten percent decrease in the area of land used for agriculture.

"The ultimate herbicide is concrete and asphalt", Raine said. "It's a matter Horticulture NZ have been banging on about for a while now, and we've got to do something about it." 

"We have some big issues for sure, and I welcome this report. I think crunching those numbers is a really important step going forward, and then we've got to do something about it."