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Environment the winner in freshwater reforms

3 July 2014

Environment the winner in freshwater reforms

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, incorporating the National Objective Framework, is the most comprehensive approach to sorting environmental issues for this country’s freshwater resource. While tough on farmers it is equally tough on urban New Zealand.

“Unlike the Green Party, which has the divisive notion the dairy industry should be held accountable for absolutely all water quality, this seminal policy makes it clear that urban and rural water must be treated equally,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Water and Environment Spokesperson, who was also on the NOF reference group.

“Using a local example, this applies equally to the Avon River, the South Island’s most polluted urban waterway even before the earthquakes, as it does to the Hinds River in Mid-Canterbury.

“This is a tough regime for all New Zealand and there is absolutely no free pass for farming whatsoever. Farmers and townies are in the same boat when it comes to freshwater quality.

“This is tough but is probably the leading legislation protecting water quality of its kind anywhere in the world as it applies to virtually all freshwater bodies.

“It requires water quality to be maintained or improved, with those water bodies that are degraded being required to come up to a minimum standard of water quality for ecosystem health, as well as for secondary contact recreation like wading.

“It is set to maintain New Zealand as having some of the best water quality in the world, the equal to Norway and Canada. What we view as polluted would be considered pretty good in many parts of the world. That’s no excuse but shows how relative commonly used words like ‘toxic’ ‘unsafe’ and ‘degraded’ are.

“The important thing about having minimum standards is that the Government has resisted any attempt to have them set at a level, which would shut down the economy.

“I heard the Green’s Dr Norman say today that it is soft. To make it any tougher would have required a soft exemption regime excusing urban water bodies. That is wrong on so many levels and it questions their environmental integrity.

“The zero exception regime really matters for standard freshwater bodies because there must be no distinction between a stream in Karori or one in the Maniototo.

“The only ones to be treated differently are those water bodies with natural pollution, geothermal lakes for instance or water where there are large colonies of native birds.

“There is provision for existing hydroelectric infrastructure but they have to be listed in Schedule 3 and this is itself limited.

“Our point is that rural or urban, no water body can be allowed to deteriorate and anything below the bottom line must be brought up to it.

“This will be of no joy for farming since it carries significant implications for agriculture right across the board. Farmer’s are in the game of good water quality too and that means our urban cousins are in the same boat. The pain and there will be some, will be shared equally.

“The importance of this is that there should be empathy for realistic timeframes and the long term aspirations for the state of water bodies as they will apply to all water bodies in New Zealand,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

ENDS

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