Swimmable rivers: Greenpeace says look below the surface
3pm 23 February
Greenpeace is encouraging voters to look below the surface of the Government’s new announcement on swimmable rivers.
Today Environment Minister Nick Smith announced a new target for clean rivers.
He pledged that 90 per cent of lakes and rivers will reach swimmable water quality standards by 2040.
“These new figures are just political sleight of hand,” says Greenpeace Campaigner Gen Toop. “And they’re not going to fool New Zealanders”
She says all the Government has done is lowered the standards so that more rivers will fit into the swimmable category.
The officially accepted percentage of New Zealand rivers you can safely swim in stood at 38 per cent before today.
“With the wave of a magic wand Mr Smith has bumped up that figure to 72 per cent.”
Until now we have relied on our own Ministry of Health standards for deciding whether it’s safe for ourselves and our kids to risk getting into any river or lake.
As of today Mr Smith says we will adopt “European and US definitions” which almost double the number of rivers that are swimmable without lifting a finger to improve them.
When it comes to campylobacter, a serious threat to swimmers, the new standards say the cleanest rivers are allowed a 1/20 risk of contracting the disease. The old standards demanded that risk should be 1/100.
“So if 20 children go down to the water hole they’re saying it’s ok if one of them comes away with campylobacter infection, and it’s still makes the grade as a swimmable river.”
Toop says this rivers the Ministry of Health used to call poor and fair - because of the amount of e-coli - are now considered excellent when you put on the Government’s new goggles.
That means kiwi kids are even more likely to become sick because they think they are swimming in a clean river.
“In its desperation to win votes it looks as if the Government is deliberately trying to mislead the public. Thanks to the efforts of many clean water campaigners they now realise how serious the problem has become.”
“It is deeply disappointing that instead of confronting the real problem with our rivers - too many cows - the Government has once again put Industrial dairying ahead of the safety of children.
Since Greenpeace’s hard-hitting TV ad linking dirty rivers to industrial dairying, its come under a tremendous amount of public pressure to clean up its act.
“Mr Smith’s announcement is a cynical vote-grabbing move to make the Government look good, when in reality they are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on making our rivers even more polluted.”
The Government has a half a billion dollar taxpayer dollars earmarked to subsidise huge irrigation schemes designed to drive more industrial dairying.
This will, by definition add more urine and poos to our rivers and lakes. Their actions, sadly speak louder than today’s hollow words.
Greenpeace is campaigning hard for a reduction in Industrial Dairying because this is the surest way to save our rivers.
According to the Government’s own Commissioner for the Environment, More cows equals more pollution.
Greenpeace is urging the Government and the industry to ditch plans to build think-big irrigation schemes and urgently reduce the national dairy herd.
Then we need to take a serious look at other methods of farming which improve our ecosystems and protect our precious rivers.