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Massey students drive freshwater change

Massey students drive freshwater change

Three Massey students are part of a team driving for change to New Zealand’s legislated freshwater standards, so current and future generations can swim in fresh waterways, which are currently under major threat of pollution and degradation.

“We are working towards the future that most people want in New Zealand – clean water that we can swim in safely,” says Marnie Prickett.

The agri-science student, along with Master of Science graduates Paul Boyce and Kyleisha Foote, filmmaker Ben Sarten and conservationist Geoff Reid completed the Choose Clean Water tour in February, visiting 25 locations in 28 days filming local stories on the impact of New Zealand’s declining freshwater quality.

They then set up the Choose Clean Water petition for concerned New Zealanders to sign.

The petition asks for “swimmable (primary contact)” to be set as the minimum standard for freshwater in lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, wetlands and estuaries, and establish that the priority for New Zealand’s freshwater legislation is the health of the people, wildlife, and the environment.

“We knew that the freshwater legislation was under review this year, and this was our opportunity to help make a change. What was missing from the debate on declining water quality was the human element – we needed to hear the stories of the impact the changing waterways was having on people. We wanted to film people telling their stories in their own words,” she says.

What they discovered ranged from disappearing rivers in the south to streams polluted with raw sewage in the north – and communities rallying together to make a positive change with their freshwater ecosystems. “We are facing a freshwater crisis in New Zealand, and we need to take action now,” Ms Prickett says.

The group received support and sponsorship from the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand to make the tour happen. Council President Martin Horgan says the project was chosen from a number of environmental projects as it was likely to have the most impact with some clear outcomes.

“The motivation for New Zealand to live up to our environmental promise is twofold. First – from a sustainable point of view for future generations – but also from a commercial perspective. Our clean, green image has worked as a marketing promise in the past, but if we don’t do more to actively live up to it, in fifty or a hundred years’ time, there won’t be anything to market.”

Ms Prickett says both Professor Russell Death and senior lecturer in ecology Dr Mike Joy have been a great help to the team as they investigate the science behind the degradation in freshwater ecosystems across New Zealand.

“We’ve had such positive feedback from our lecturers at Massey – and we seem to have struck a chord with the people of New Zealand. Our films (which are on the website and on YouTube) have been viewed over 90,000 times. We want as many people as possible to sign the petition while it’s still possible.”

The group will present the petition to parliament on March 29, so there is still time for people to sign it. The team’s original goal of 10,000 signatures has been met and they’re now aiming 15,000. Visit the petition website here: and the group’s Facebook page is here:

The Ministry of the Environment is holding its only Auckland public meeting for consultation on this legislation on Tuesday March 22 at the Ellerslie Events Centre, 80 Ascot Avenue, Remuera, starting at 5.30 pm. For more information on the freshwater reforms and the public consultation, visit the website:


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