Freshwater reforms a significant step forward

  • 28/05/2020

The Government's policy announced today is a significant step forward in reducing pollution in our rural and our urban waterways caused by intensive farming and through council's neglect. However, there is still more work to be done in the coming years, Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

"There are two key parts of today's announcement from the Government: the rules and enforcement of the rules.

"The rules, if enforced, will achieve the aim of preventing further decline by establishing for the first time a cap on the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and strengthening the nitrogen toxicity attributes and bottom lines to protect 95 per cent of species.

"However, the postponement for 12 months of a dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) bottom line is a concern considering that 13 out of the 18 scientists wanted it set at ecosystem health levels of 1 or lower. We expect that science will prevail.

"In terms of implementation, there is still a lot of work to be done by regional councils and, if some regional councils operate as they have in the past, then they could scuttle New Zealand's reform agenda as we have seen with Horizons and the One Plan over the last decade.

"The answer to this problem is an independent freshwater commission to provide robust guidance, support and oversight of regional councils and these freshwater reforms. We look forward to discussing this further with the Government.

"The Government's own modelling shows that strong rules for water are a benefit to our economy, despite what polluting industries say.

"The vast majority of farmers will feel little impact from these reforms, especially those who follow good farming practices. The reforms only really impact the heavy dairy areas of Taranaki, Canterbury and Southland.

"The Government's new nitrogen toxicity bottom lines say there will be less than a 1 per cent per annum decline in Canterbury dairy sector profits by 2050. This is a small cost to ensure our children and their children can swim and fish in their local waterway.

"Game bird hunters and anglers support these reforms to save what we have left and hopefully restore some of what we have lost.

"These reforms will be welcomed by three quarters - 76 per cent - of Kiwis who are extremely or very concerned about the pollution of lakes and rivers according to Colmar Brunton.

"This shows that New Zealanders remain concerned about water pollution and how careful political parties need to be in addressing this concern.

"All political parties are on notice that in this year's election Kiwis will expect to be able to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams."

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