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Green Party launches key election priority

Green Party launches key election priority, rivers clean enough for swimming

The Green Party has announced today that its number one environmental priority for this election is making our rivers clean enough to swim in again and keeping our beaches safe from oil spills.

The Green Party will make a series of announcements over the course of the election campaign in which it will outline the specifics of how it will clean up our rivers and protect our beaches. In the first of these announcements, made today, the party launched its plan for clean rivers.

The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan for clean rivers are:

1. Establish a protected rivers network
The Green Party will establish a protected rivers network to permanently safeguard our most precious rivers similar to the permanent protection given to national parks. The protected rivers network will stop the destruction of rivers from irrigation, dams and pollution, while retaining the full right of all New Zealanders to use the rivers for food gathering and recreation. Iwi and hapu will be involved in the protection plan process at each step, in recognition of their kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga.

2. Set robust standards that ensure rivers are clean enough for swimming
The Green Party will overhaul and strengthen National’s weak National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, implement a strong National Environmental Standard for water quality, and implement a National Environmental Standard for water flows in rivers, all of which will be geared to make our rivers clean and healthy enough for swimming.

3. Keep our wild rivers wild by not building any new dams on them

“All of our rivers and lakes should be clean enough to swim in,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“The Green Party has a vision for New Zealand where families can head down to their local swimming hole or beach and jump right in the water without worrying about getting sick. That is why the Green Party’s top environmental election priority is to make New Zealand rivers and beaches clean enough for swimming.

“There are over 180,000 kilometres of rivers in New Zealand. Rivers are our lifeblood – culturally, spiritually, and economically and we have a duty to make them clean.

“Latest figures show that nearly two-thirds of our monitored river sites are too polluted for swimming, one-third of our lakes are unhealthy and three quarters of our native freshwater fish are at risk of extinction.

“It’s no wonder that polling shows that water is the top environmental issue for New Zealanders.

“Successive Governments have overseen the significant deterioration in our water quality. We are now at a crisis point and the Green Party has a credible plan to make our rivers clean enough for swimming again.

“As part of our plan to clean up New Zealand’s rivers, the Green Party will implement a protected rivers network.

“New Zealand has a network of national parks and reserves to permanently protect the best of our landscapes but we have no similar system for permanently protecting the best of our rivers.

“Maori have a big stake in this. We are pledging to work with iwi and hapū to implement a protection system for our rivers that preserve Maori customary rights.

“National has overseen the pollution of our rivers, and three more years will further put our rivers and environment at risk.

“National has established water rules that are so weak they would allow some of our rivers to have more nitrogen pollution than the famously degraded Yangtze River in China.

“National’s so-called rules are just a license to pollute. National’s bottom line for river water quality means that even boating and wading will have a moderate risk of acquiring an infection.

“The Green Party will establish national standards for water that are robust enough to make rivers clean enough to swim in.

“At this election voters have a clear choice, National’s rivers that are so polluted you can only dip your toe in them, or the Green’s plan for clean rivers you can swim in.”

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