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River and lake targets need to be practical

The Government’s 90 per cent swimmability target covers waterways over 40cm deep and lakes more than 1.5km in perimeter so the target is practical and measureable, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“A creek or stream that is less than 40cm deep is not that practical to swim in and there is not the reliable data on water quality in the 400,000km of smaller waterways to enable us to set meaningful targets.

“It is incorrect to claim there is no requirement under the National Policy Statement (NPS) to improve water quality in these 400,000km of creeks and streams. Ninety per cent of these flow into rivers and lakes that have specific targets and monitoring requirements. There is also a general requirement on councils to improve water quality in all waterways.

“I would encourage councils to include in their monitoring and reporting smaller waterways if they are locally significant. However, it is not practical to make it compulsory or to include it in the national targets. I have already had councils raise concerns about the costs to ratepayers of the new monitoring requirements in the NPS. The national targets and monitoring system to ensure progress will not work if each region has different definitions.

“The Government is step by step strengthening our management of fresh water. We introduced compulsory water metering in 2009, the first NPS on Fresh Water in 2011, the requirement to limit nutrients in 2014, the Environment Reporting Act in 2015 and these swimmability targets this year. We have also increased by six-fold funding for fresh water clean-ups to $450 million.

“The Government shares with environment groups an ambition to improve New Zealand’s water quality but where we differ is ensuring the standards and targets are practical and affordable.”

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