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PQ 11. Freshwater Management

11. Freshwater Management, National Policy Statement—Water Quality of Rivers
[Sitting date: 23 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:15. Text is subject to correction.]
11. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment : Does the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management require the 61 percent of monitored recreational river sites that are graded “poor” or “very poor” to be safe for swimming?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): The national policy statement requires all fresh water to be at a level that experts tell us will protect aquatic species and human health. Beyond that, it does not set requirements on a river-by-river basis. They are national standards, and above the bottom lines, it is for each community to decide what goal will be set in each case.
Eugenie Sage : Does she think it acceptable that these sites, chosen because they are popular for swimming, are actually too polluted to safely swim at and that her weak bottom lines will not make a difference?
Hon AMY ADAMS : Well, the member is quite wrong in her assertion. First of all, what we are talking about here is 94 sites out of a total of 425,000 kilometres of waterways, and even fewer than that actually measuring as potentially at risk, and even those are generally safe for swimming most of the time.
Eugenie Sage : When the Minister said that we need to manage popular lake and river swimming spots for swimming, did that include the Waikirikiri Selwyn River on her doorstep, which has multiple sites that are unsafe for swimming, and which her national bottom line—that rivers have to be fit only for wading and not for swimming—will not clean up?
Hon AMY ADAMS : What we have said consistently is that we trust local communities to know which sites they want to protect for swimming and to take the necessary steps to do that. I back my community to make decisions about what it wants to protect for swimming, and I am not going to impose costs on every community, every business, and every household in New Zealand because the Greens want every drainage ditch to be managed as if it was a swimming pool. It is ludicrous.
Eugenie Sage : What advice has the Minister had on the cost to local authorities of multiple regional plan processes and court litigation that result from her decision to leave it to councils to determine whether rivers should be clean and safe for swimming, rather than having a national bottom line?
Hon AMY ADAMS : What I can tell that member is that, of course, at the moment—and the situation that that member’s party was quite happy with when it was in a position to do something about it—these decisions are entirely for councils, the difference being that at the moment the Government provides no assistance, no national consistency, and no standardised science. That is what we have done and that will significantly reduce the time and the cost on each community in making those decisions. I am just surprised that member does not back local communities.
Eugenie Sage : Can the Minister confirm that she is abandoning annual reporting on recreational river quality in the suitability for swimming indicator report because the National Government is trying to hide the bad news?
Hon AMY ADAMS : That member well knows that we are moving to the most comprehensive system of environmental reporting that this country has ever had, under which water quality will be reported twice in every 18 months—a system, by the way, that did not exist in 2007 when the Greens were propping up a Labour Government that picked and chose what information it wanted to give to the public.

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