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Government should heed public concerns about freshwater

15 December 2013
Government should heed public concerns about freshwater
The Government should listen when Kiwis say freshwater quality is the single most important environmental issue facing New Zealand, the Green Party said today.
Freshwater was the most important issue that respondents identified in Lincoln University's 2013 survey of perceptions of the state of the environment, as it was in the 2008 and 2010 surveys. 
The formerly biennial, now triennial survey tests New Zealanders' perceptions of all the main natural resource areas (e.g. air, water, marine, biodiversity). The 2013 survey has 2,200 respondents and is the seventh such survey since it began in 2000. It was released on Friday.
“New Zealanders continue to be worried about our rivers and lakes, wanting them better managed with less farm run-off. The Government needs to listen and overhaul its proposed weak bottom lines for water quality so that rivers are fit for swimming, not just wading and boating as National proposes,” said Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage.
"This survey shows a continued decline in New Zealanders' perception of the state of our environment, with only 35% describing it as “good” in 2013 compared with 48% in 2000.  We have to reverse this trend and start making our 100% Pure New Zealand image stack up."
Of all natural resources in the survey, Kiwis consider that rivers and lakes are in the worst condition with 41% of respondents rating them as “bad” or “very bad,” an increase on 2010 results for water quality. Rivers and lakes have received the lowest ratings in the survey since 2004. 64% identified the management of farm effluent and runoff as “bad” or “very bad”; an increase on earlier years.
An increasing number of respondents identified farming as the main cause of a decline in freshwater quality (56% in 2013 compared with 25% in 2000). As the survey report states; “Over the 13 years of these surveys, farming has been increasingly perceived as problematic for all the resources monitored.” (p42)
“The public knows that successive National and Labour governments have overseen increasing pollution of rivers, lakes and aquifers from agricultural intensification and they have failed to take adequate action to control land use to protect water quality,” said Ms Sage.
“A healthy economy requires a healthy environment. We need to limit stock numbers and nutrient leaching in sensitive catchments. We need much stronger rules for water quality than National is proposing with its draft National Objectives Framework.
"New Zealanders love our rivers and lakes and want them protected. The Green Party is committed to strong rules for clean water so that these resources are clean enough for swimming, fishing and collecting kai,” said Ms Sage.


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