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Call to halt the serious decline in fresh water

August 29, 2005

Call to halt the serious decline in NZ’s 100 percent natural fresh water system

New Zealand’s fresh water eco systems are declining at a serious and alarming rate, the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society and New Zealand Ecological Society conference will hear in Nelson today.

Over 300 delegates from throughout New Zealand are attending the three day event. The conference is looking at seeking to protect the water’s edge ecology of New Zealand’s wetlands, rivers and lakes, which are under threat.
The conference brings together scientists and those responsible for managing New Zealand’s wetlands, rivers and lakes.

``As a nation which sells itself as 100 percent natural, we must put a halt to the serious decline in our freshwater systems. Ecology at the water’s edge is of vital natural and financial importance to New Zealand,’’ NZ Ecological Society president John Sawyer said today.

``Our indigenous wetland ecosystems are declining. This is most notably illustrated by the situation in the lakes near Rotorua where people are banned from swimming any more because of the poor water quality.

``Right across New Zealand we see an ongoing decline in quality of our wetland and fresh water systems, leading to a loss of native plants and animals. A third of NZ threatened plant species are wetland species.’’

The South Island’s Lake Ellesmere was last week declared "technically dead" because of over-use and pollution. Environment Court Judge Jeff Smith said the lake was in "serious ecological condition". Fish and species numbers have slumped and lake users, local Maori and the courts have demanded the lake be saved.

Beside people destroying habitats and indigenous ecologies, the increasing spread of pest animals and weeds through indigenous ecosystems was causing irreversible loss of unique ecological communities, Mr Sawyer said.

Biosecurity New Zealand has restricted access the Lower Waiau and Mararoa catchments in Southland due to the detrimental affect of exotic species (a freshwater algae called 'rock snot', in this case). ``Most parts of NZ are now affected by the impact of alien species spreading through indigenous ecosystems. Areas currently free of aquatic weeds such as the Chatham Islands and parts of South Island river systems are also high priority for protection. ``We make a plea to the incoming Government to take a sustainable approach to managing our natural resources with a view to providing greater protection and offering greater research funding,’’ he said.

Key speakers include Professor Stuart Bunn, from Griffith University, Australia, who is a well known expert in the field of freshwater science. The other key speaker is Philippe Gerbeaux, a wetland specialist with the Department of Conservation.


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