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A Murky Vision for Freshwater Management

A Murky Vision for Freshwater Management

The Māori Party welcomes the statement on freshwater management but is disappointed that the Government did not take a bolder move to save the future of freshwater in Aotearoa for all New Zealanders in announcing their National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.

“The Government had a real opportunity to contribute to the protection and care of Te Ao Marama through the prevention, maintenance and enhancement of water quality. While the Statement has the potential to make a very real difference to freshwater management in Aotearoa, it does not address many of the challenges around freshwater management,” says Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Māori Party.

“The public have repeatedly shown that they regard swimming or fishing in freshwaters (or the general practice of mahinga kai) as of key importance and to have a standard that reflects anything less is not only irrational, it limits options for further improving water quality,” says Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-leader of the Māori Party.

“Setting the national human health objective below that of safe swimming is unlikely to maintain or improve the mauri of the waterways or provide for the values embraced within Te Mana o te Wai. If Te Mana o te Wai is to be considered in future collaboration with hapū and iwi, the degree to which councils and communities will manage this depends on the strength of the NPS policies and will ultimately determine whether this value is protected for future generations or erode over time,” says Turia.

“The Statement could have been quite aspirational despite the Government saying this is not possible. Instead we are left with minimum bottom lines for freshwater that could be seen as a target to attain but which could result in significant degradation of water quality in Aotearoa placing New Zealand within the eight worst rivers in OECD countries for water quality. All of this whilst still remaining compliant with the Statement,” says Turia.

“The Minister contends that councils and communities can decide what level of water quality they would like in their region, but as we have seen, relying on the processes of local representation does not always provide for meaningful participation in decision-making that is both inclusive and effective,” says Flavell.

“Our water is one of our most valuable taonga and if the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management is to adequately serve drinking, recreational, ecological, spiritual, and biological purposes as well as national and regional development, there remains to be addressed some serious gaps, omissions and problems with the final document,” says Flavell.


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