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Freshwater Announcements Need to Go Further

Freshwater Announcements Need to Go Further

The Environmental Defence Society has expressed concern about aspects of the announcements on freshwater made at the Prime Minister's press conference today.

"The key concern is that the National Policy Statement, which will become law shortly, has been watered down from the version recommended by the Board of Inquiry last year," said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

"We welcome the fact that it has finally been approved and provides some direction. However it will not on its own achieve the step-change improvement in water quality sought by the Land and Water Forum and EDS.

"The NPS needs to be reinforced with a complementary National Environmental Standard that would define water quality limits. There appears to be no clear commitment from Government to that next step.

"This is technical Resource Management Act stuff but the bottom line is that we need clear national guidance for freshwater management as recommended by the Land and Water Forum. Regional councils need direction from government or our streams, lakes and rivers will continue to deteriorate.

"People should be able to swim and fish safely in New Zealand's waterways but that is no longer possible in many lowland areas.

"The other announcements regarding the creation of new funds are very broad and whether they end up with acceptable environmental outcomes will depend on the criteria that apply to their use.

"We expect that the Land and Water Forum will be involved in helping establish criteria for the Funds. That would be a positive move.

"The Freshwater Clean-up Fund is small but it's a start. When economic conditions improve we would hope to see that fund expand. We also think it should be focused on cleaning up historical problems and that polluters should pay for present-day ones.

"The Community Irrigation Fund will encourage new irrigation projects that have been through a collaborative process with stakeholders. Collaboration may be a good thing and lead to better outcomes.

"However any new irrigation will need to be linked with a thorough assessment of the subsequent land use changes to avoid further deterioration of water quality. More dairy intensification may well lead to more pollution.

"Finally the indication from the Prime Minister that capital from the sale of SOEs post-election could be used for much larger investment in irrigation schemes must also be on the basis that the water quality implications are positive and not negative.

"In-stream values for nature, fishing, canoeing and other uses need to be protected and National Water Conservation Orders retained.

"The disproportionate scale of proposed investment in irrigation versus clean-up is a worry. Irrigation schemes will provide for a large expansion of dairying, an industry whose diffuse water quality impacts are uncontrolled in most regions, and whose greenhouse gas emissions are exempt from the emissions trading scheme.

"Government funding should not be used to pollute.

"There is much more work to be done before we have saved our freshwater systems. The Land and Water Forum's recommendations need to be implemented in their totality," Mr Taylor concluded.

ENDS

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