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Water wake-up call welcome

27 August 2008

Water wake-up call welcome

Forest owners have welcomed the water management plan released by the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD).
“Over-allocation of water, deteriorating water quality in lowland streams and a lack of integrated catchment management have become crucial issues in many parts of New Zealand, but to date the government has failed to come up with a coherent national policy to deal with these issues within a realistic time-frame. The National Policy Statement (NPS) on water released by government earlier this year was a great disappointment,” says NZFOA environment committee chair Peter Weir.
“The Business Council is to be congratulated for analysing the issues and coming up with a rational action plan, calling for decisive and urgent action by central government, and regional councils.”
He says forest owners won’t necessarily agree with all the details in the NZBCSD proposal, but welcome the fact that an independent organisation has presented detailed proposals for public debate and hopefully, government decision making.
”There is a desperate need for leadership and standard setting by central government, along with much tighter timeframes for action than the 2030 deadline in the government’s draft NPS,” Mr Weir says.
“Forest owners have a vested interest in the outcome of this debate. In the absence of a coherent national water strategy, forest owners are increasingly being regulated by regional councils to provide water conservation services for the benefit of the rest of the community.
“If, as proposed by the NZBCSD, regional councils are required to undertake integrated catchment management there is likely to be greater recognition of the clean water, markedly reduced sediment yield and other eco-system services provided by planted forests. With proper recognition and rewards, more forest are likely to be planted and existing forests retained.”
He says the treatment of privately-owned forests as public utilities is reflected in the government’s draft National Policy Statement which focuses on regional councils controlling the future development of land and water, rather than applying the polluter pays principle to all land and water uses, existing and planned.
“New Zealand will only have sustainable water and land use if the OECD’s polluter pays principle is applied rigorously, as was originally intended when the Resource Management Act was drafted.”
Mr Weir says forest owners agree that government must urgently develop a much better NPS for water, embodying the proposal from NZBSCD to divorce value of water from value of land and by creating water markets in catchments where allocation or assimilative capacity exceeds 70 per cent.
”The Ministry for the Environment has shown with their National Air Quality Standard how a good NES can work. We now need this model for water, with strong central government leadership, backed by direction setting for regional councils from the Ministries for the Environment and Agriculture & Forestry.”

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