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National muddying waters and needs to come clean

14 July 2014

National muddying waters and needs to come clean

The Government’s inaccurate response to the Green Party’s clean rivers policy shows it is scared of the Party’s plans that will actually make rivers clean enough to swim in, the Green Party said today.

Minister of Economic Development, Steven Joyce, claims that only polluted sites are monitored. However the most recent Ministry for the Environment report card on the suitability of our rivers for swimming shows 61 percent of our monitored river swimming sites are not safe for swimming. The report identifies that sites are selected because they are “popular for primary contact recreation”.

“Joyce has simply got it wrong again,” said Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“New Zealanders want to be able to swim in their local river, but National’s plans offer nothing better than the ability to wade in them.

“If the Government wants to turn our rivers into drainage ditches, then it should come clean about that.

“National is being mischievous with the facts:

- They are ignoring the jobs cleaning up our rivers can create, and overlooking the cost we face if we fail to ensure our clean green image matches reality;

- Their claims that water conservation orders are adequate overlooks the fact that under National the Rakaia’s water conversation order was weakened to allow more irrigation;

- Water conservation orders also don’t protect rivers from pollution. The Mohaka and some of its tributaries are protected by a Water Conservation Order. This has not prevented a major tributary, the Taharua River, from being polluted by more intensive land use in its catchment;

- The Environment Minister has forgotten that there is a definition of river in the Resource Management Act that excludes farm drainage ditches, irrigation canal and water supply races;

- The Yangtze River was cited by the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences society in their submission on the Government’s water quality proposal, along with the Mississippi River which is so polluted it has created ‘dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico,

- Mainly more rivers than the 13 covered by water conservation orders deserve protection.

“If the National minister want to argue with the science then they should take it up with the scientists. What we know is that New Zealanders want to be able to swim in the rivers where they live, and we can have rules that ensure they can.

“The Environment Minister Amy Adams has stated that she would like her children to be able to swim in the lakes and rivers where she lives. Many monitored swimming sites where she lives are graded unsafe for swimming, including the Selwyn River/Waikirikiri at the Upper Huts.

“An Environment Canterbury report that covers water quality in the Selwyn electorate cited that further land use intensification is likely to lead to further compromise of recreational values like swimming.

“Despite this her Government has backed the Central Plains irrigation scheme which will result in more pollution of the rivers in the Selwyn electorate, and Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere,” said Dr Sage.

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