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Swimmable rivers promise on indefinite hold

23 July 2008

Swimmable rivers promise on indefinite hold

The Government's long-awaited Proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management released today puts on hold a Labour promise to make all water bodies safe for swimming within a generation, according to Green MP and Co-Leader Russel Norman.

"Yesterday I issued a draft of this document, leaked to the Green Party, which excluded Labour's promise of many years to make rivers safe to swim in within a generation," Dr Norman said.

"Today's document does include swimming under Objective 3; '...including actions to ensure appropriate Freshwater Resources can reach or exceed a swimmable standard' however there is no definite deadline to achieve this.

It seemed the Government had strengthened the final policy statement slightly in various places to include swimming provisions after lobbying by Fish and Game NZ, environmental groups and the Green Party. But the final draft had gone nowhere near far enough, Dr Norman said.

"In the NPS preamble for example it talks about moving `towards meeting contact recreation guidelines' ie making rivers and lakes safe for swimming, but doesn't say whether this will happen this millennium or next," Dr Norman said.

"This is a disgrace after Environment Minister Trevor Mallard repeated Labour's promise as recently as February that we would have `rivers... clean enough to swim in within a generation'.

"The safety of our water resources has been hijacked by vested interests with the ear of cabinet and the NPS would give New Zealand one of the worst freshwater quality standards in the OECD.

"Official objectives like 'Enabling well-being of people and communities' and 'Improving the quality of fresh water' are nonsense without including specific dates and defined water quality standards such as exactly when rivers need to reach a 'swimmable and/or fishable' standard again."


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