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Toxic algae sign of national water crisis

15 February 2008

Toxic algae sign of national water crisis

New Zealand is suffering from a national water-quality crisis resulting in toxic algal blooms across the country, Green Party Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

Nandor says that poor management of waterways is causing algal blooms in multiple waterways in Hawkes Bay, Waikato, Kapiti Coast, Wairarapa, Wellington and Christchurch.

"There are several factors involved, including drought, but the underlying cause of these toxic blooms is contamination of waterways, in particular excessive nutrient levels," Nandor says.

"In Hawkes Bay for example, bad sewerage management means that nitrogen and phosphorus in our rivers are far beyond acceptable levels and the result is toxic algal blooms that are a danger to human health.

"It is unacceptable to treat our rivers as sewerage pipes. Local authorities need to sort this out, and well before the 2015 deadline they have set in Hawkes Bay.

"Yes, pressure is generated by drought conditions, but this only underlines the fact the authorities are not factoring adequate environmental buffers into their equations.

"Extreme weather events are only going to increase with climate change. We need to put some leeway back into environmental management plans".

"Up to five thousand cubic metres of partially treated sewage is being pumped into Central Hawkes Bay's Tukitki river alone each day and yet we act surprised that this river is now so poisoned that dogs die and humans suffer vomiting and diarrhoea.

"In other regions, such as Wellington and the Waikato, these blooms can be traced back to nutrients from farming run off. Toxic blooms have become regular events and are treated as normal.

"This is like the alcoholic who says they have no problem. "I drink, I fall over - no problem".

"National water standards are becoming urgent but the Government is cooling its heels. It's time that water pollution, whether from farming, from sewerage, from unsustainable cities or any other source, is treated as a national priority".


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