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Holes in Govt’s freshwater policy create licence to pollute

7 November 2013

Holes in Govt’s framework for freshwater create a licence to pollute

The Government is giving up on making our dirty rivers and lakes safe for swimming, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party was commenting on draft National Water Objectives released today by Environment Minister Amy Adams.

While there is still the requirement to maintain or improve overall water quality in a region, the minimal acceptable state for rivers is to meet a standard of secondary contact recreation which means making our rivers and lakes safe for boating rather than the primary recreation standard which means safe for swimming.

“This means that while some rivers in a region are improving, councils can let others degrade to a condition that is unsafe for swimming,” said Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The supposed bottom lines for water quality proposed by the National Government have big gaps and amount to a licence to pollute.

“We have a freshwater crisis on our hands and the Government’s National Water Objectives will not resolve it.”

Ms Sage said that over half of our monitored rivers sites were unsafe for swimming, almost one-third of our lakes were unhealthy, and two-thirds of our native freshwater fish were threatened or at risk.

“We desperately need effective regulation that prevents further degradation and improves the quality of our rivers and lakes. The Government’s proposed Objectives Framework won’t provide it,” said Ms Sage.

When the Minister’s draft national objectives were leaked to the media in September, the Green Party raised concerns that the proposed national objectives were too weak, were missing important measures, and would not protect water quality.

“Important measures needed to ensure healthy waterways were missing in September and they are still missing. These include limits on both total nitrogen and phosphorus as nutrient inputs to rivers. Without limits there is a major risk of increased algal blooms,” said Ms Sage.

“The ecosystem health objectives should have included the macro-invertebrate community index which is a well-recognised and important indicator of ecological health.

“Including the objectives in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater makes them aspirational rather than solid bottom lines which councils and land and water users have to meet.

“The Green Party is committed to strong rules for clean water so that our rivers and lakes are clean enough for swimming, fishing, and collecting kai,” said Ms Sage.

ENDS

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