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National water standards needed now

15 November 2012
National water standards needed now

The Government needs to implement effective national environmental standards for fresh water after the Land and Water Forum did not produce any, the Green Party said today.

“There are two glaring omissions in the Land and Water Forum report released today – the lack of crucial national environmental standards for water and no charges for the commercial use of water,” Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage said.

“In April, the Forum signalled national standards would be part of its third and final report but National Government ministers stopped the Forum from completing that work. Such standards are essential to determine controls on land use and limit how much nutrient and other pollutants can go into waterways.

“Our freshwater is in crisis. More than half of our monitored rivers are unsafe for swimming, one-third of our lakes are unhealthy, and two-thirds of our native freshwater fish are at risk or threatened with extinction.

“If we want clean rivers, lakes and aquifers we need strong national environmental standards for freshwater.

“We also need to start charging for the commercial use of water such as the water used for intensive farming. That money could be used to pay for clean-up initiatives.
“A charge on irrigation water is an effective price signal to more efficiently allocate a scarce resource.

“The report suggests creating a market for water rights by making them tradable, but that would just further complicate water management. It could result in ‘water barons’ - a few companies or wealthy individuals - locking up resources with no benefits to river flows or water quality.

“The report sets out how councils should use regional plans under the RMA to set objectives and limits on contaminants and takes for rivers and aquifers, but lacks guidance on what those limits should be.

“This means any slowing of water quality decline is unlikely anytime soon given that only 5 percent of catchments have such limits for water quality.

“This report shows irrigators and agribusiness got a lot of what they wanted but without having to balance that with measures like having to pay for the water they use or agree to key regulatory controls which are missing.”

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