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LAWA Report on “Improved Rivers” Flawed

A recent report from Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) that water quality was now improving has been criticised as flawed and therefore giving a false impression.

Council of Outdoor Recreation Association’s research officer Ken Sims said LAWA in its conception had shown much promise as a credible information forum. However the water report had eroded that potential.
“The whole thing has now become a source of misinformation,” he said. “It looks like LAWA is in La-la Land.”

His comments followed those of Massey scientist Dr Mike Joy on Pure Advantage website who also took LAWA to task citing deficiencies such as using data from outdated and flawed assessments and a lack of scientific or objective rigour in the selection of the monitoring sites.

“It’s important that users are aware of the limitations of what is presented and how it is presented given the pressure on council staff to tell a positive story,” he said.

LAWA was made up of the regional authorities charged with protecting water quality in New Zealand and was set up to share information after their efficacy was publicly challenged, particularly over the condition of the Manawatu River. It was a collaboration of organisations with initially a partnership between New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils. Since LAWA has grown to include the Cawthron Institute, Ministry for the Environment and Massey University with support from the private Tindall Foundation.

Dr Mike Joy said LAWA was arguably irresponsibly moving into dangerous territory.

“Because the worst thing for freshwaters in New Zealand is a false impression that net improvements are being made before the necessary changes are actually made,” he explained.

Ken Sims said Horizons was a classic case of putting dollars into advertising rather than addressing the actual problem of degraded water.

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