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Key aspects of water standards disappoint

Key aspects of water standards disappoint

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird is concerned the government’s new national freshwater quality standards may encourage some councils to propose that rivers and lakes be allowed to become toxic to wildlife.

The final National Policy Statement was released today and is a response to a key recommendation of the Land and Water Forum that New Zealand should have a set of national bottom lines to protect the life-supporting capacity of, and to guide the use of, our freshwater resources.

“While the government’s new national standard contains several important improvements, it is disappointing that an important measure of ecosystem health has been defined in terms of nitrate toxicity to aquatic life,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“The Board of Inquiry’s decision on the Ruataniwha irrigation dam made it clear that the ecological health of our lakes and rivers cannot be defined by nutrient levels approaching toxicity.
“Defining ecosystem health in terms of nitrate toxicity creates the risk that regional councils will consider it OK to set nitrate levels that will be constantly harmful to fish and invertebrates,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“This is what was rejected in the Ruataniwha case. However, we now run the risk of having to make the same arguments all around the country. Everyone had all been looking to the government to provide certainty from this national guidance.

“It is also disappointing that the government has not implemented the Land and Water Forum’s recommendation that ecosystem health should be defined in terms of the freshwater invertebrate communities. This recommendation was agreed to by the forum’s primary sector, iwi and environmental members,” Kevin Hackwell says.

One important improvement announced today is that the regime by which water bodies could be exempted from the bottom lines has been tightened up.


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