Tuesday, 21 January 2020 08:55

Museum’s water quality display irks farmers

Written by  Peter Burke
Te Papa display showing artificially coloured water supposedly from different parts of the country. Te Papa display showing artificially coloured water supposedly from different parts of the country.

National museum, Te Papa is under fire over its exhibition on water quality in New Zealand.

Read Te Papa's response here.

National’s spokesperson on agriculture, Todd Muller has accused the Te Papa of “oversimplifying” the complex issue of water quality and walking away from science in its exhibition. 

The museum is currently running an exhibition showing water quality in various parts of the country: farm streams, lakes and harbours. Bottles are artificially coloured to show what they believe is colour of water in those places. It also has an interactive display where people can supposedly improve the environment by touching a screen which says less cows.

Muller and other farming leaders had discussions with Te Papa before Christmas about some aspects of the display. According to Muller, Te Papa’s role is to reflect the voices of New Zealanders.

“Where is the farming voice? What I am seeing is predetermined view that there should be less agriculture, less dairy and that the NZ future lies in it being less dependent on agriculture. I reject that premise which is coming from the government and its infusing our museum,” he says.

Muller says the problem is that water quality is complex and the number one objective of Te Papa should be to tell the NZ story with authenticity. The reality, he says, is that there are huge numbers of streams where the quality of water is improving due to the efforts of farmers.

Federated Farmers vice president, Andrew Hoggard says the risk of dealing with a complex subject such as water quality so that more people including children understand it is that it becomes too simplistic.

“The problem is that people often draw the wrong conclusions,” he says. 

Hoggard says life is complex; the water issue is also very complex. He says it is no good pretending that every farm stream is crystal clear, because it isn’t. But he says it’s far too simplistic to label every farm stream as being in some way polluted.

“There are plenty of example of farmers that have done a great deal to make sure streams are clean and don’t have negative impacts. So there is a need to promote that wider view of what is actually happening and not just the simplistic view,” he says.

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