Fish & Game Urges Government To Act on Water Quality

  • 19/06/2015

Fish & Game is urging the government to act immediately on the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s warnings about the continuing deterioration of the country’s waterways and sharp rise in intensive dairying.

The Commissioner, Dr Jan Wright, has just released two reports on water quality in which she warns that New Zealand is “not out of the woods yet” and the country’s water quality is continuing to decline.

While Dr Wright acknowledges the government’s 2014 National Policy Statement on Water is a “major step forward”, she is calling on the government to take further steps to safeguard the quality of New Zealand’s fresh water.

She is particularly critical of continuing dairy farm conversions which rose sharply between 2008 and 2012 to cover an extra 158,000 hectares of land. At the same time deforestation increased.

In the Commissioner’s report on the impact of land use and nutrient runoff on water quality, Dr Wright warns that previous attempts to measure what was happening “underestimated” the scale of the problem.

Dr Wright is also critical of the decision to exclude estuaries from the National Policy Statement on Water and wants an end to allowing some waterways to degrade in return for improving others.

Dr Wright describes the practice, known as “unders and overs”, as unworkable, misleading and lacking in transparency.

Fish & Game says both of Dr Wright’s reports are astute, comprehensive and concerning.

“Dr Wright has done an excellent job of reconfirming what is still happening to this country’s waterways”, said Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson. “The government must now listen to what she is saying and act before it is too late.”

“First up, the Minister of the Environment should prohibit the shameful practice of allowing some waterways to decline in quality if that decline is balanced by improvements elsewhere.

“This unders and overs practice is probably illegal and a slap in the face for the environment. It makes no sense for our “clean and green, 100 percent pure” international brand,” Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson said recent research of public opinion shows New Zealanders want clean water and don’t want their right to have clean, swimmable and fishable rivers taken away.

“Dr Wright has made six recommendations to the Minister of the Environment in her review of the National Policy Statement on Water. The duty now falls to the minister to say what he is going to do as a consequence,” Mr Johnson said.

“Having clean water is fundamental to the Kiwi brand – being “dirty and brown and only 63% pure” simply doesn’t cut it.

“The environment and the economy depend on clean water and the government needs to act to ensure New Zealanders can continue to drink, swim in and gather food from their rivers and streams”, he said.

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