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Water quality - time for talk is over

Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 08:45

Fish & Game NZ says a report released today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) makes it clear that the time for talk about what’s impacting water quality in New Zealand is over and urgent action is required.

“PCE Jan Wright should be complimented for what is a practical piece of reporting,” says Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson.

“Too often we encounter calls from polluting industries for ‘more science’ to prove their activity is having an adverse impact on water quality.

“Yet Dr Wright correctly points out in her report that this is being used as a tactic for delaying difficult decisions – classic examples of which we’ve seen in the debate surrounding the dire state of Waituna Lagoon in Southland, and Lake Ellersmere in Canterbury.”

The report, Water Quality in New Zealand: understanding the science, identifies sediment from eroding land and excessive nutrients and pathogens from livestock and agricultural inputs as being major problems nationally.
Mr Johnson accepts Dr Wright’s suggestion that there is “no magic bullet” when it comes to addressing this important environmental issue, but says for there to be any impact on addressing our declining water quality we need to implement what is already known.

“A recent call for limits on stocking rates for sensitive classes of land is long overdue to reduce nitrogen pollution. So too is the need for riparian buffer zones, whereby animals are fenced well back from waterways, to soak up nutrient run-off and bad bugs from animal faeces, as well as reduce erosion,” Mr Johnson says.

“We have known for years that these practical measures reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality – the Ministry for the Environment publication ‘Managing Waterways on Farms’ came out in 2001!

“Fonterra, Beef and Lamb NZ, the Dairy Companies Association of NZ and the Dairy Environmental Leadership Group can’t sit on their hands any longer – all need to be requiring environmental best practice from their suppliers, particularly where it relates to effective riparian management where the science is already well established.

“This is also the advice of the Government’s Land and Water Forum, so industry just needs to get on with it so that New Zealanders can have their rivers, streams and lakes returned to being swimmable, fishable and safe for food gathering.

“The cost of doing nothing is too high, as we are seeing through the millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on a handful of water bodies around the country which have been prioritised for cleaning up.

“Whatever people take from this report, Dr Wright’s concluding remark is that New Zealand cannot afford not to act on reversing the decline in water quality because it is ‘one of the biggest environmental challenges that we face’ – Fish & Game and the majority of New Zealanders agree.”