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Minister corrects incorrect claims about national freshwater

Minister corrects incorrect claims about national freshwater standards

Environment Minister Amy Adams has today moved to correct incorrect and misleading comments made about the Government’s ground-breaking national freshwater standards.

The Government yesterday announced clear, robust national standards for freshwater that will make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

This means, for the first time, New Zealand’s rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

However, some, including the Green Party, the Labour Party and Massey University environmental ecologist Dr Mike Joy, have resorted to making incorrect claims about the freshwater reforms that have gone unchallenged.

“Some of New Zealand’s best freshwater scientists came up with numeric values for the national standards.

“Ministers have not been involved in any way in the scientific detail of the framework. We were deliberately hands-off during this part of the process so we could get the best scientific information.

“The incorrect comments and claims about this scientific work are extremely disappointing.”

Claims the Government’s national standards for freshwater will lead to the deterioration of freshwater are wrong, Ms Adams says.

“In 2011, the Government required Councils to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers across their region. If their water quality is already above the national standard announced yesterday it cannot be allowed to deteriorate.

“Where a water body is below the national standard, councils and communities will need to ensure that the standard is met over sensible and realistic timeframes.

“The national standards are focussed on targeting those waterbodies that are currently below these levels, and do not affect waterbodies where councils have chosen a higher standard.

“If councils want to let water quality in specific sites deteriorate, as Dr Joy appears to suggest, they can do this now with no limitations. However, the national standards for the first time put restrictions on councils in this regard.”

Responding to criticism that the national standards do not make all waterbodies swimmable, Ms Adams says the standards are about setting minimum criteria. Sites that councils and communities identify as swimming sites will require higher standards.

“It is not the Government’s intention to require every stormwater drainage channel across New Zealand to be suitable for swimming, because of the significant costs this would impose unnecessarily.

“In our experience, communities and councils are absolutely focused on improving water quality, but the important point is this; today there are no minimum standards for our lakes and rivers. The Government is changing that.”
Ms Adams also corrected the Green Party’s and Dr Joy’s comparison of nitrogen levels in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers to those in the Yangtzee River.
“Although the Yangtze River indeed has serious pollution issues, nitrogen is not the core pollutant there.

“In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the primary issue for the Yangtze River is industrial and sewage waste and the management of sediments, rather than nitrogen.

“Furthermore, the nitrate toxicity threshold for the national standards is only one of the ways that nitrogen must be managed to meet the standard.
“Most rivers will need to be managed for nitrogen levels to meet periphyton standards. The Green Party and Dr Joy either do not understand this or have deliberately chosen to ignore it.

“New Zealanders are right to be concerned about areas where water quality is deteriorating – as we all are, however it is disappointing some people have resorted to making incorrect statements about such a positive step towards improving water quality. It says more about their politicking and ideology than any desire to actually see water quality improvements.”


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