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Shocking report on West Coast water quality

22 July 2008

Shocking report on West Coast water quality

The West Coast mining and dairy industries must be called to account by the West Coast Regional Council and the Government, after the industries were identified today as major offenders in a report saying 100 percent of West Coast water supplies failed to meet drinking standards, the Green Party says.

Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says it is an outrage that partly because of two of the dirtiest industries in New Zealand - dairying and mining - the entire West Coast has been shown to have no drinking water supply that met official Drinking Water Standards.

"The dairying and mining industries are supposed to operate according to strict conditions - but not one dairy farm was prosecuted by the regional council in the '06/'07 financial year for breaking relevant consent conditions, despite the evidence proving that some are putting their own profits ahead of the health of West Coast residents."

The joint document by the West Coast and Canterbury District Health Boards describes between 18,000 and 34,000 cases of gastro-intestinal disease in the region a year and one of the authors, Christopher Bergin, says water quality can be particularly bad in poorer rural areas.

Page 13 of the report says the major offenders "are the mining industry by polluting our waterways with silts and heavy metals; and the farming industry, mainly dairy, polluting water with faecal material, nitrates and silts... "

"The report focuses especially on the dairy industry and this comes a day after Fonterra, although not a player on the Coast, put out a statement celebrating the financial success of the dairy industry without mentioning industrial dairying was at the cost of our environment and health," Dr Norman said. "It comes at a time when polluting industries appear to have the ear of the Government and are slowing official moves to make our waters safe for activities such as swimming, let alone going as far as making them safe for drinking."

It was also another reason why the true costs of the mining industry, and especially coal mining, needed comprehensive review, he said. As well as causing local pollution, there were significant climate change and conservation issues around coal.


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