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Act NOW to ensure all NZ rivers swimmable

Act NOW to ensure all NZ rivers swimmable

The National Government, through the Ministry for the Environment, is proposing to change the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. In the face of serious declines in water quality in most NZ rivers, the government want us to accept rivers that are so polluted that we can only wade or boat in them but not immerse ourselves.

This acceptance of stink water quality is shocking. Hopefully, shocking enough for you to take action, tap into your networks and send a clear message to the government that it must set a higher standard for water quality. We need to maintain our ability to use our beautiful rivers for swimming, fishing, boating and ideally, drinking. The proposed standards would set the core ‘Compulsory Values’ for fresh water at “secondary contact recreation”.

Secondary contact recreation value is defined as water which “…will not present unacceptable risks to human health when used for wading or boating (except boating where there is a high likelihood of immersion)” and “…there would be no more than moderate risk of infection or illness to people when wading or boating…that do not involve immersion in the water.” 1

So we’re all OK with our rivers being so polluted that if you happen to slip while wading in them you have a moderate risk of getting sick??! Thirty years ago we could safely drink out of most of our rivers. What’s happened?

Well, mostly, it’s that unnecessary amounts of urea fertiliser on dairies have happened over the last 30 years. I stress unnecessary because dairies can be profitable and even grow MORE grass of better quality when they cut back by as much as ¾ on their urea applications. Organic dairies prosper without any urea fertiliser. The water quality problem is not really about dairy effluent. It is the volume and manner in which dairy farmers apply urea as a source of nitrogen that is the cause of leachate and water pollution. It doesn’t have to be this way. With changes in fertiliser regimes we can have profitable dairies that regenerate soils and do not pollute our rivers. It just takes political will to set the water quality bar higher. And that’s where you come in…

Ministry for the Environment (MFE) and your local parliamentarian need to know that you insist on all of our rivers being safely swimmable and headed back towards being drinkable again. You can do that by sending an email to watersubmissions@mfe.govt.nz. You can use the attached word file as a guide. The important thing is to be sure to give your name and email address and to state clearly that you want Section 4.3 Compulsory Value to be set a swimmable/ safe immersion level. 2

The second important thing is to send your email BEFORE 5pm February 4th…funny how the government seems to put controversial policies out for comment over the summer holidays when we’re all distracted and trying to relax.

The third important thing to do is to make this message go viral. Forward it to everyone you even vaguely know. And then follow up with a reminder. EVERYONE is affected by this whether it’s from not being able to collect kai to not being able to safely drink from your farm well. It is all connected to the way we’re fertilising and doing agriculture and that can be changed with win/win outcomes all around.

Remember that mining in national parks was stopped by 25,000 people marching down Queen’s Street. It can be done on this issue, too. Get angry. Get active.


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