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Monday, April 03, 2006

Snot the point

--------------------UPDATE: TUE. 11/04/2006-----------------------
Just recalled this post and comments from SirH's:-

Submitted by RWDB on Sat, 17/12/2005 - 10:09pm.
Russell Brown vs Tim Selwyn

Russell Brown (pause as RWDB waits for groans, sighs to die down) published the conclusions of his exhaustive (and by exhaustive we mean "did at least one google search with the "I'm feeling Lucky" button") investigation into the relentlessly riveting politics of didymo back in October.

Lyndon Hood notices National MP Shane Ardern's take on the Didymo "rock snot" river infestations. It was the gummint's fault, because it failed to "kill" the first two rivers where the algae was found. ("This stuff can be killed, but unfortunately they have to kill the river for a few years to do it. But surely it would have been better to sacrifice one or two rivers than let it spread through the South Island.")
Lyndon could find no evidence that temporarily "killing" rivers is practical, or even possible. Neither can I. The Biosecurity NZ FAQ says "We know of no systematic attempts to eradicate invasive blooms of Didymo overseas."

But then this month from Tim Selwyn, we get totally the opposite, along with some fine words about Jim "Corporate Welfare" Anderton:
I heard that fuck-knuckle Anderton guffawing like a half-baked fool in parliament the other day when he attempted to ridicule the idea that the didymo infestation should be combated by flushing the effected rivers. He cackled that the people proposing this didn't understand that it would kill everything else in the river too. God that man is a cock - an idiotic dinosaur and apologist for every bureaucratic failing without the intelligence to grasp the big picture let alone the detail. His continued presence in the Clark Ministry at the ridiculously high ranking of No. 3 is a gauge of it's collective ineptitude.

Didymo stuffs up rivers completely. It got into NZ somehow. The Govt. doesn't know and doesn't care how it got in and how to stop it. So while they are "controlling" the South Island it could well get in from overseas in the North Island - I have heard absolutely nothing about what they are doing to prevent that.

Flushing is the only thing that will work. If we do it now then we can eliminate it while it is in only a few rivers. No more didymo. A South Island river fisherman friend of mine concurs. We can re-stock the affected rivers, but leaving them with didymo is to leave them dead. But the Govt. will squander this opportunity and let it spread and in effect protect it. Ruination courtesy of Jim Anderton. And we thought Marion Hobbs was useless. What a frightful legacy he will leave - wanting to destroy private property rights by having the public wander down land next to rivers and simultaneously ensuring that those waterways are infected with a virulent weed that means no one will want to do that anyway. Typical, classic Anderton: everyone loses.

So who is wrong? Is there anyone reading with more knowledge of rivers than Russell and Google or Tim and Anonymous Fishing Man, who could enlighten us? Who is your money on?
» RWDB's blog | 213 reads

OK, I'll take a stab at
Submitted by Tane (not verified) on Mon, 19/12/2005 - 11:17am.

OK, I'll take a stab at this. I know some of the people who've been working 60 hour weeks since February on the Didymo incursion, so I think I can help illuminate the sitution. I apologise in advance for the length of this post, but it is a fairly involved subject.

Quite simply Tim Selwyn is wrong, or at the very least, wildly inaccurate. He makes it sound like tipping a bottle or two of Janola into the river will do the trick. Well, it'll take a fair bit more than that. The Waiau and Mataroa rivers that kicked this off are about 200km long, not including tributaries. The flow looks pretty insubstantial during summer, but most of the water moves through the riverbed substrate, so there's a fair bit of it (around 30 cubic metres). Didymo, being a microscopic algae, can move into the substrate and survive there for months before being flushed back up to the surface and recolonising. One cell is all that's needed to get to where we are now.

Killing Didymo requires a 2% bleach or 5% salt solution. So for every cubic metre of water (1,000 litres) you need 20 litres of bleach. If the waterflow is 30 cumecs (30 cubic metres per second) you need 600 litres of bleach. Per second. For many, many seconds (say 180, to ensure an adequate mix). 108,000 litres of pure bleach, dumped into the headwaters in three minutes. Quite a logistics feat, though not an impossible one (it'd only take 27 Army Unimogs, I doubt tankers would get that far). This might sound quite feasible, but we don't know if it would work. No study has been done on whether the chlorine will actually mix to the required dosage down the whole 200km strech of affected river to KILL EVERTY DIDYMO CELL. Maybe we'd need to double the chlorine, so get another 108,000 litres of bleach. Or maybe we also need to double the time span, so get another 216,000 litres. Pretty soon you're talking some serious figures. And I'm only talking about the Waiau and Mataroa here, not the Buller or any other river.

OK, so we've dumped all that chlorine in once. We'd want to do it two or three times to make sure, along with at least two manpower intensive boat and ground searches. Not sure how much that would cost. Obviously everything in the river will die, or at least a bloody great percentage of it. But that's OK, we can restock it apparently. Sadly, Mother Nature might not let us do this in an orderly fashion. What we do know from overseas research is when a heavily polluted river comes back, what you get is not what you might want. Rather than trout we might get masses of water weeds. Or native algaes might bloom in the absence of predators. Or water beetles, or Christ knows what else. It's not as simple as dropping a few trout back in the water and coming back in six months to a pristine river.

All this effort, which may not work at all, for an algae that is bloody ugly, but as far as we know, does not destroy anything. It doesn't poison water sources for instance. The effect of didymo is uncertain, though there is a lot of anecdotal evidence. Having seen it I can understand why everyone hates it; it looks like a giant has hocked a 30m lurgee into the water; mmmmmm, phlegm, everyone's favourite. But the scientists aren't too sure if it kills fish or displaces anything else. Time will tell.

Oh, and I should also note here, as Tim seems to have missed it, that no other country afflicted with Didymo (like Canada and the United States) has tried to 'nuke' any rivers. They put up with it, much as we will have to.

Didymo is a shitty thing to have in this country, and much as I'd like to get rid of it, I don't reckon we can. I'd advise Tim and anyone else wanting to have a go at Jim Anderton to find a different subject (I'm sure that won't be hard). On this one, he is actually pretty damn right.


Well, Tane, that's your story. Tane hasn't grasped that perhaps North America did not have the window of opportunity we have (had?) to destroy it. Also, that the river could be doused in the summer or dammed up in part to reduce the water level so you wouldn't need so much of whatever chemical (or whatever) to do the job. Tane's assertions and assumptions are all "I don't reckon we can" and "we will have to" - "put up with it" bullshit that got us into this trouble in the first place. It is people like Tane who are to blame. It is thinking like his that will ensure it will long have a happy home all over Aotearoa.

TVNZ reports NIWA doing studies - trials finish June and "long term strategy" after that. Sounds a bit vague and they've taken their time (see conspiracy/reality theory).

--------------------UPDATE: TUE. 04/04/2006-----------------------

The slime thickens: Stuff reports:

The unchecked spread of the invasive didymo algae in waterways could cost New Zealand up to $285 million over the next six years......from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
Great! Now the inept biosecurity ministry can go about cobbling together a report for that dolt, Anderton, that plans a programme that will cost up to a 3 factor cost/benefit scenario (the most that they think they can scrape through Cabinet) and now we haver a figure of $285 we divide by three to get $95m. The "crisis" report necessary (mentioned in the main post) for the Minister to recite to sway the Cabinet has just been penned. It's all so hideously simple. Has nothing whatsoever, at all to do with the actual cost of eradication. They could have done that for a couple of millions two years ago. This is about growing the budget. The biosecurity bill will now be $95m over 2-5 years at least to get rid of it. And the great thing is actual real core cost is still low - and the padding, "consultation," "awareness," ie. advertising and PR can be unlimited. Anderton shoots - and a slam by biosecurity. *departmental victory touchdown dance*

The report analyses three scenarios – a low-impact situation where the cost to New Zealand could be only $58m by 2011-12, a medium impact of $167m and a high impact of $285m.

Under the high-impact scenario, the cost to recreational river users is estimated at $88m, the loss of native species, including birds and fish, could cost $55m, and the potential drop in tourism expenditure could be $63m.

Ten South Island rivers are known to be affected by didymo, or rock snot. It was first identified in Southland rivers in 2004.

Didymo has been found as far north as the Buller River and appears to be settling in Canterbury, after being found in the Waitaki and Ahuriri rivers this year.

The worst scenario assumes the algae will reach North Island rivers within two years, but a slow down in that spread would make a marked difference in the level of economic impact, given the greater population of the island.[...]

Fish and Game officers in Otago and Southland were monitoring didymo's impact on fish, but it would be some time before results were available.

He hoped that trout numbers were not reduced by the same alarming level as in the US.

Watson was concerned at reports a Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ) survey had shown that only about one-third of people were "undertaking different actions" since the beginning of an awareness campaign warning fishermen and boaties to clean equipment to prevent didymo's spread.

It's so an utterly useless response isn't it. Is a 1/3 compliance considered successful? No, I didn't think so either. Their policy is designed to facilitate it's spead to reach the crisis point to trigger a massive budget input. The North Island is so obviously going to be infected with a 1/3 compliance to the only policy to prevent the spread. North Island infestation is the most likely outcome within a few years - minimum. Are those North Island MPs going to let it happen in their patch as the dolt let it spread in the South Island? No, I didn't think so either. They would order an eradication report wouldn't they? And pay $95m to get rid of it? If that's what it costs - then that's what it costs, right?

Transmission of the algae from one river to another is thought to be most commonly caused by contaminated equipment.

"We've got to redouble our efforts and get almost all people complying."

BNZ spokeswoman Tina Nixon said affecting attitudinal change was very difficult, but the body was pleased that 92% of South Island river users were aware of didymo.

Of course she is - that's all they need to do to let it spread to crisis point - spent all the budget on advertising and all the surveys and research and reports about "awareness" of something they are doing nothing about. Their pathetic response is widely known and that translates to being "pleased"!

BNZ officials were unable to comment on the report yesterday.

Of course they were - they're all busy preparing their $95m "rescue package"

I wonder what the Greens response will be. They are not just standing back and letting it happen they are fully supporting and praising the inaction of Anderton - their ideological enemy. Idiots. Idiots. The river ecology of the South Island is being destroyed, the North Island is threatened and what are the supposed guardians of biodiversity and the eco-system and nature doing? Paying their enemy, one of the reasons they are out of government, respects for killing the river system of this country.


They do not deserve to be over 0.5% let alone 5%. They call themselves environmentalists? Do they? Because they aren't. The people I know who support them are first and foremost lefties and care about the environment as a distant policy add on. Their MPs are slash and burn hippies and limp communist lefties who, and let's make this crystal clear,


I wasn't the only one who heard Jim Anderton's laboured response in Parliament last week to his inaction over the Didymo ("Rock snot") infestation (There was a story recently too of it's rapid spread along the Waitaki). Accompanied by the usual chuckles to himself, he attempted to mock a Nat backbencher who wants to eradicate it rather than grow it.

Then the geriatric Catholic-Socialist blathered on about how proud he was of all the research that was going in to it. That is to say: is going in to doing nothing about it. Like the dolt is still in charge of regional crony/capitalist make-work schemes? He thinks we can have lots of wonderful research and schemes into doing absolutely nothing about the problem. "Here's a report from Angela that took three years about how a native insect probably won't have that much effect after all... and it's now spread to the North Island by the way because we haven't tried to eradicate it... at all... in any way, Minister" - "Great! Now let's order another report for the North Island. *chuckles to self* Gosh I'm a productive minister. *chuckles to self*"

It may be drastic to "kill" a portion of a river, but this is temporary - it can live again and be repopulated with what was lost. But the current government idea of just letting it spread and hoping and praying that it won't eventually wind up in the North Island is delusional and negligent in the extreme. The current policy is to have the South Island rivers so thick with Didymo you can drive across them. Our South Island brethren are being ordered to sacrifice themselves. As yet I haven't heard how and what they have done to stop it entering the country in the same manner as it got here. Long term, there is no point in even their tokenistic measures if the way it got here in the first place is still open.

The sad fact, fact is that if, if the biosecurity ministry and the fuckwads of the Cabinet were not fuckwads, were not fuckwads, then the "dead" rivers would most likely be reinstated by now and no more Didymo. Alas, the only infestestation more rampant than Didymo is political-bureaucratic fuckwadism.

So, Anderton, like Marion Hobbes before him as biosecurity minister has fucked it up - just like the Painted Apple Moth. Same story. Small colony is "monitored" and "researched" and allowed to spread everywhere until someone must decide to get rid of it. If you leave academics (esp. female?) in charge of an eradication programme you get a 20 year research project ending up recommending it be given "protected" status to help it survive. Or perhaps recommending that Didymo's only natural enemy the malaria-carrying, Giant Stinging Screeching Killer Scorpion Swarmeatus Agonix Deathi Rampagea be introduced en mass in riverside picnic grounds to achieve a 0.03% reduction in Didymo after 50 years.

Flush the rivers now - rather than later. How many times must they be told? Everyone washing down every part of everything with soapy water after they have been near a river that might have Didymo every time, forever is just so obviously going to fail.

If I had a choice to wash everything all the time forever or wash the river just once, I'd prefer to wash the river. So would, I think, many thousands of frequent South Island river users.

The conspiracy/reality theory:

Simple extention of Parkinson's law of bureaucracy. The bureacracy will prefer to fritter away a smaller budget in order to cause a crisis that will demand a massive budget later on. The trick for them is to "catch it" at the right moment. They provide the Ministers thoughts and control the policy so it's all up to them to manipulate their dumb disinterested bosses into suddenly caring at the right moment in front of Cabinet. They must let it go almost, almost completely out of control (to precipitate a "crisis" ie. media attention, vocal lobbyists etc.) and then to present to the Minister a "rescue package" (rescuing his dumb, disinterested arse) costing basically as much as they can get away with. By refusing to deal with the issue early on when it would have only cost about $1-3m and been over at the end of year two, they can have a $10-$300m budget that starts in about year 4 or 5 and will last for two. Is it in the bureaucracy's interest to have it invasive permanently thereby making it's "management" a permanent item of perhaps $1-3m annually? No - because with biosecurity there will always be something else in a few years time to repeat the exercise. But this would be to credit them with the intelligence to be that evil.

Oh, and you'll notice that no-one is ever fired for these things. Marion Hobbs? Yes, she was fired - but I was under the impression that was just a general incompetence thing - nothing specifically related to letting the Moth bill blow out in the tens of millions and several thousand percent.


At 4/4/06 9:59 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another insightful piece Mr Selwyn - why the mainstream media don't pick up on this is fucking beyond me. I think it is because they are stupid! You should be on Radio Live mate! PS - when are you doing one having a go at those rapist pigs?

At 4/4/06 12:03 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

"Another..." - As was your piece on our premier AM State broadcaster the other day.

"Rapist pigs"? - you're going to have to be specific, Mr Bradbury, there are almost 10,000 of them and so many cases. So many they might have to be suppressed by the court for example - who knows?

I've tasked myself with a pilot for an early-breakfast show on Wednesdays. Ewing calls it an "audition" - whatever.

At 4/4/06 12:22 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

Re: Green party comments

I've just looked at their Frogblog site and it hasn't been updated since Friday. So I'm sure the next thing on there will be a post about Didymo and what they intend to do about it.

However, I note that the content of their recent posts:
Eating wiser: Friday March 31st, 2006 @ 4:58 pm
Nuking Global Energy Supplies: Friday March 31st, 2006 @ 4:30 pm
Not so special benefits: Friday March 31st, 2006 @ 4:01 pm
Positive Pete: Wednesday March 29th, 2006 @ 9:52 am
Turn down the heat!: Tuesday March 28th, 2006 @ 11:09 am
Terminator issue on the cards again: Thursday March 23rd, 2006 @ 10:51 am
Climate change science censored by Bush administration: Tuesday March 21st, 2006 @ 11:45 am
Fewer MPs?: Friday March 17th, 2006 @ 5:05 pm
New Zealand sticks out like sore thumb in Brazil: Thursday March 16th, 2006 @ 11:44 am

Oh there's stuff about the environment all right - but wanky/wonky policy talkfests etc. and "social justice" type issues and fadish apocolypse-of-the-month theories etc.

It's like they've reversed the old line about "think global - act local". They devote an enormous amount of time into their pet theories and global issues; but when it comes to a local problem they just don't care.

They seem obsessed with the process rather than the results. And they have such a poor understanding of the real process they are supposedly in ie. politics, that their way of "playing the game" has got them precisely nowhere.

At 6/4/06 11:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jeez tj i like this idea that you have to give the didlymo snot a protected status and get the departnment conservation to look after it,
do yous think we could genetical mutate them salmon fish to like eating it mebe,
but this action attack you got in mind instead of research and think and talk, and pray to god for them little fishes, do't it entail pouring concentrated formalin down the river for about a week and eliminating everything this side of the panama, mebe not quitwe as bad as that, but still them other writer correct it a wonder the main
middle of the soggy road media journalists dont get hold of you on this issue,

At 11/4/06 12:50 am, Blogger Bomber said...

Still nothing on Frogblog about any of this! Environmental catastrophy, alarming report, govt. doing nothing - and what does forgblog have to talk about?:

Metiria in the Solomons: Monday April 10th, 2006 @ 4:33 pm
Greens silently protest arrival of Wen Jiabao: Thursday April 6th, 2006 @ 11:04 am
Listening for the weather, Wednesday April 5th, 2006 @ 12:31 pm
Lotto tickets not a better bet: Wednesday April 5th, 2006 @ 10:00 am
Timely release of special report: Tuesday April 4th, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

"yeah, but they mean well..." some may say. - No they don't - because they don't care.

I am castigating the Green party for it because they are supposed to be the ones to stop it - not support it. The other parties should care as well, of course they should, but they get pre-occupied with other stuff - this is core Green party policy. They have no excuses.

"a wonder the main middle of the soggy road media journalists dont get hold of you on this issue" - I know that I do get some incoming traffic from the media organisations (and parliament too) but maybe they don't care either or know a good news story when they see one. They'll all start caring when it's on the front page of the Listener no doubt.

At 6/5/07 7:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Michael and I come from Taihape. My class and I are trying to clean up our local river (the Hautapu). It would be awesome if you could leave a comment, Cheers

At 7/12/08 3:10 am, Blogger Unknown said...

Greets from Idaho, USA.

Your idea shoots for commonsense, but goes cockeyed when the details come into focus.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts, Aldo Leopold said. 'Killing' a river effectively enough to erradicate Didymo means killing it all. All dead, from microflora to fish.

You're saying 'I hate ugly weeds, let's kill it *All*'.

Which begs the question: are you sure you understand everything that makes each river what it is? Even the unique details? No miniscule snails, as yet undiscovered? No unique biotic setups that cause a hole at mile 36 to carry off wicked hatches each day in the early season, but whose population will never come back because they only got there because of an accidental innoculation a few thousand years ago?

The same absorbency that pushes folks' estimates to go at this with an overwhelming amount of bleach or pesticide will pay the worst of dividends: the river subfloor and spongy areas are often where microflora reside and survive thru droughts or freezes or huge silt dumps or other adverse times. Except this time, your 'sponge' will be greedily holding onto a 2% chlorine solution that spends decades honoring a dilution equation that says the rate of change is tied to the difference in concentrations. Spongy material could take years to become a 1.5%, then a 1.2% then a 1.1%...

So, what if your kills-all pesticide never washes out enough to let those spongy spots become their current wonderful biotic cesspools of algae and bugs and baby fishfood again.

But let's say that your plan is better than rock snot. Let's just go with a medium-bad condition and say that the river never fully returns to her former glory, but becomes a decent fishery again. But even that gradual rebalancing takes 5 years to get to a tolerable state.

So... 5 years where nobody uses the river.

What does your plan do when someone walks back into your newly-restored river with 'snotty' felts on their boots on opening day.

No matter what is done to FIX your sick river, fishers will need to understand and change behavior or the problem won't ever go away or stay away. And we aren't just talking weeds. Similar vectors are being talked about as a cause for whirling disease in trout. Lead sinkers kill ducks. Discarded snarls of monofilament in a river become a hazard to some animals.

Me, I'm hoping for a species-specific pesticide. And I'm thinking I need to design a sterilizing bath for fishing gear. Dial in temps to 160F, insulated tub, room for a few pairs of boots and / or two pairs of waders and a built in timer with a loud buzzer to tell me when it's done. I suspect it's gonna start to look a lot like the laundry appliances my wife already has... damn shame she won't let me put those smelly damn waders and boots in with her laundry.

At 7/12/08 4:19 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

Valid points, but I note that Norway is proposing to do something similar to what I suggest. The micro-life must be able to re-assert itself quickly.


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