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New Zealand Is Only 50% Pure

Wednesday July 7, 2004

New Zealand Is Only 50% Pure And Local Government Is To Blame

The recent report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research on 229 lowland waterways, which found they were unsafe to swim in just confirmed the validity of Fish & Game’s “Dirty Dairying Campaign” the organisation said today.

“We have said all along that the state of our lowland rivers and streams is a disgrace,” says Fish & Game Director, Bryce Johnson. "'Fifty Percent Pure’ and ‘dirty and brown’ are much more accurate statements than Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure New Zealand Campaign and claims about our ‘clean and green’ image.”

The report found that nearly 95% of lowland streams and rivers have levels of faecal bacteria and pollutants which are in excess of Health Ministry guidelines. These levels of bacteria can cause gastro-intestinal illness, and high levels make the water unsuitable for consumption by both people and stock. Between 1996 to 2002 phosphorus and nitrogen levels in streams in farming areas had increased because of more intensive land use, in particular dairying. The report was published in the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research.

“The responsibility for this pollution lies fairly and squarely with Government agencies such as Ministry for the Environment and Regional Councils. New Zealand is very lucky to have the Resource Management Act which gives us the legal ability to protect the environment while allowing reasonable economic development. But poor implementation of the key provisions of the Act by Central and Local Government has meant our lowland waterways have continued to be degraded by the enormous growth in land use intensification,” says Mr Johnson.

“There is no problem with the range of tools within the Resource Management Act, the problem is inadequate implementation by Central and Local Government,” says Mr Johnson.

“Sadly, this report makes a nonsense of Tourism New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign. While Tourism New Zealand tries to argue that the slogan ‘markets the unique experiences New Zealand offer’ the far more probable reality is 100% Pure means to most people 100% pure clean and green, which is the image we use to sell our primary produce. Tourism New Zealand loves to promote overseas the image of people fly-fishing in the waters of wilderness rivers and our ‘pristine environment’. Well, the reality is quite different – tourism is being undermined by agriculture.”

“All the political enthusiasm to review the Resource Management Act is really a smokescreen to hide the failure of Central and Local Government agencies to forthrightly implement the available, but unused, provisions of the Act. “

“Those responsible for maintaining the state of New Zealand’s natural environment ought to be made far more accountable for their inadequate performance. Environmental protection in New Zealand would take a huge step forward if the Ministry for the Environment was given the explicit duty to formally review and require the performance of Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities against the ‘Purpose and Principles’ of the Resource Management Act, and report regularly on the state of the environment. It is a disgrace that the last comprehensive State of the New Zealand Environment Report was in 1997.”


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