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Action Must Follow State of the Environment Report


30 January 2008

Action Must Follow Second National State of the Environment Report

Fish & Game New Zealand is concerned that tomorrow’s release of the second ever national State of the Environment report will be exploited to provide unconvincing justification for further inaction by both agriculture and government to clean up agriculture’s adverse environmental impacts.

“While public and political awareness of our deteriorating freshwater environment is improving, there are a number of areas that consistently provide pretexts for inaction,” said Bryce Johnson, Chief Executive Fish & Game New Zealand.

“For example, it is well understood that water quality in urban areas is poor, where diffuse run-off from paved areas and leaky sewage systems pollute our urban waterways. This sad fact has been employed by Federated Farmers in the past as some sort of justification for a lack of action on agricultural pollution on the grounds that, ‘We’re not the only polluters, townies are just as bad, so we don’t need to take responsibility.’

“Similarly, accepting New Zealand’s declining water quality because it is above an OECD average is tragic. Our clean, green 100% pure marketing edge demands a 100% pure reality, not just ‘above average’. We have the opportunity and ability to enjoy the multiple benefits of clean water – let’s not settle for anything less.

“The other concern is the old, ‘We’re working on it now’ position. The truth in most cases is, ‘We’re talking about it now’ and the Government’s Sustainable Water Programme of Action (or ‘Inaction’ as senior MAF official Paul Reynolds tagged it) is one example. The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, a voluntary agreement with Fonterra’s milk suppliers only, has lead to suggestions that many dairy farmers were already farming responsibly, but having a nutrient budget doesn’t mean applying it.”

“The report will note the reality that water quality continues to decline in areas dominated by intensive agriculture, and that improvement in farming practices must occur. But what we all need to see is action; action by Government on central policy and standards (and Canterbury’s out-of-control irrigation takes), and action by agriculture itself to take greater formal responsibility for cleaning up its adverse environmental effects on waterways that we all use and depend on.”


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