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Regional councils set draft freshwater regional targets

Regional councils set draft regional targets for swimmable lakes and rivers

Regional councils are this month announcing draft targets that are a step towards the goal of 90 per cent of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040.

The draft regional targets draw on information contained in a report prepared jointly by Regional Councils, the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Primary Industries, with advice from technical experts. Councils have until the end of this year to discuss the draft regional targets with their communities and finalise them.

The report released today, “Regional information for setting draft targets for swimmable lakes and rivers”, outlines the work planned or underway in each region to improve water quality for swimming, including infrastructure provision, riparian planting and stock exclusion, enabling us to understand what to expect based on currently planned activity.

Local Government New Zealand Regional Sector Chair Doug Leeder says the report is a good step to further improving freshwater quality.

“Regional and unitary councils share the commitment to improve water quality and are already working hard on this,” Mr Leeder says.

“Achieving this is a long-term goal and this report is a good starting point for more discussion with territorial authorities, communities and other stakeholders before finalising goals later this year.”

Mr Leeder says agreeing the science behind the data used to assess “swimmability” is important.

Ministry for the Environment Deputy Secretary – Water, Cheryl Barnes, says this is a useful step forward.

“There is some excellent work already underway but improving water quality is complex as all of our 4,200 catchments across the country have different conditions and land use.

“This report helps communities understand what’s planned and explore where more needs to be done.

“These targets are expected to evolve as regional councils progress with their planning and engage with communities about their expectations” Ms Barnes says.

LGNZ President Dave Cull says all councils are committed to working with central government and communities to meet water quality expectations.

“Water is a top priority for local government, and the subject of considerable ongoing work across both freshwater resources and the three waters through our Water 2050 project,” Mr Cull says. “There will be costs associated with achieving improving freshwater quality, and we look forward to continuing to work constructively with the Government to make sure councils have the resources to do this.”

The report “Regional information for setting for swimmable lakes and rivers” is available Ministry for the Environment website. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/fresh-water/regional-information-setting-draft-targets-swimmable-lakes-and-rivers.

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