Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 


Wade, don't swim in NZ government's new freshwater policy

Wade, don't swim in NZ government's new freshwater policy

By Pattrick Smellie

July 3 (BusinessDesk) - More than decade of false starts and collaborative process by both Labour and National-led governments has concluded with government decisions on a new national policy governing freshwater resources, with some wins for the environment, but an acceptance there are water bodies that will not be fit to swim in for many years.

Despite a deluge of public submissions seeking "swimmability" as a bottom line for freshwater bodies in New Zealand, Environment Minister Amy Adams ultimately opted for a basic bottom line for freshwater quality requiring the ability to wade or go boating, rather than being clean enough to swim in.

In effect, the policy acknowledges water quality in a significant proportion of waterways is below that level and, in some cases, deteriorating and that as long as backsliding is not permitted, the "bottom line" is unlikely to match public expectations.

The National Objectives Framework and National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management gained cautious support from the Environmental Defence Society, which described the decisions as "a significant step", which has largely acknowledged the work of the Land and Water Forum, a Nordic-style collaborative process initiated five years ago by the then Environment Minister, Nick Smith.

That followed an abortive nine year process under the previous Labour government to grapple with the same issues, at a time when dairy industry intensification began to place heavy, new burdens on available freshwater resources and environmental processes.

The adoption of a NOF for freshwater was "a significant step forward" in setting environmental bottom lines, but "we have some concerns as to whether the detail will in fact lead to the water quality improvements New Zealanders are demanding," said EDS's Taylor in a statement.

The nation's largest company, dairy cooperative Fonterra, welcomed the decisions, while Irrigation New Zealand welcomed them "cautiously".

The Green Party said the final decisions were "a licence to pollute" and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society said the outcome was disappointing.

"New Zealanders want clean rivers that they can swim in," said the Greens' water spokesperson, Eugenie Sage, "Around 90 percent of public submissions called for this."

The government documents describe a process to improve freshwater quality that could, in some cases, take as long as 80 years, since leaching pollutants deposited by past generations continue to affect water quality well into the future.

The new national objectives do not allow freshwater resources to deteriorate and insist on at least "secondary human contact" - wading and boating - being reached, with higher quality levels that include swimmability already being reached by some waterways, and evidence of improvement across all areas of pollutants visible already.

A loophole in the original recommendations was closed to ensure all regional councils adopt a plan to improve freshwater quality.

However, EDS is concerned that, on a regional basis, water bodies could be allowed to deteriorate by allowing an "overs and unders" approach to regional outcomes, and warned those concepts were likely to be tested in the courts.

In a nod to the clear public preference for a "swimmability" target, Adams said the regime would now include permission for local governments to implement standards at a higher levels than the NOF's national bottom lines.

Crucially, the new policy requires regional governing bodies to "set fresh water management units and include all fresh water bodies within them", with all regional councils required to have plans in place by Dec 31, 2015, with a five year cut in the implementation timeframe, from 2030 as originally proposed, to 2025.

The NOF also sees the merging of several previously proposed categories, and accepts but gives incomplete guidance on the creation of a measure of invertebrate life in waterways, regarded as the best way to measure freshwater health, but fraught with scientific difficulty.

Adams deleted parts of the NOF giving exemptions for pollution caused by historic activities because there was no evidence that such cases existed.

Taylor expressed concern in a briefing with officials from Ministry for the Environment about the potential for loose wording in the NOF and National Policy Statement, to trigger court action, particularly over the ability to count "overs and unders" in compliance within a single catchment.

Of particular concern to all parties is the approach to measuring invertebrate life in waterways, a highly specific science based on local conditions, but regarded as the best way to measure health of water bodies, but is fraught with scientific difficulty.

(BusinessDesk)

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Strike: Lyttelton Port Workers Vote To Escalate Dispute

Members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) at Lyttelton Port today voted to escalate their industrial action. Around 200 RMTU members have been operating an overtime ban since 17 December and today they endorsed a series of full withdrawals of labour at the port. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ Dollar Falls To 3-Year Low As Investors Favour Greenback

The New Zealand dollar fell to its lowest in more than three years as investors sold euro and bought US dollars, weakening other currencies against the greenback. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ Govt Operating Deficit Smaller Than Expected

The New Zealand’s government’s operating deficit was smaller than expected in the first five months of the financial year as a clampdown on expenditure managed to offset a shortfall in the tax-take from last month’s forecast. More>>

ALSO:

0.8 Percent Annually:
NZ Inflation Falls Below RBNZ's Target

New Zealand's annual pace of inflation slowed to below the Reserve Bank's target band in the final three months of the year, giving governor Graeme Wheeler more room to keep the benchmark interest rate lower for longer.More>>

ALSO:

NASA, NOAA: Find 2014 Warmest Year In Modern Record

Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: New Zealand’s Reserve Bank Named Central Bank Of The Year

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s efforts to stifle house price inflation by using new policy tools has seen the institution named Central Bank of the year by Central Banking Publications, a publisher specialising in global central banking practice. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Business
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news