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Kiwis want tougher water quality rules to protect rivers

Over 80 percent of New Zealanders want tougher rules to protect rivers, lakes and streams from pollution.

The findings are revealed in a nationwide poll conducted in December for Fish & Game New Zealand by Colmar Brunton.

People were asked if mandatory environmental standards should be introduced for New Zealand waterways, even if it meant regulating intensive farming.

82 percent of those questioned said they definitely or probably supported such a move.

The result is even higher among people who are extremely or very concerned about pollution of our rivers and lakes, with nine out of ten supporting tougher rules.

Fish and Game chief executive Martin Taylor says the results are a wake-up call for agriculture leaders and local government.

"For too long, local authorities have allowed intensive farms to become established in unsuitable areas and then protected them at the expense of local residents and the environment. Enforcement of the rules has been weak," Mr Taylor says.

"That policy has resulted in dirty rivers and lakes choked with sediment. In many places, New Zealanders have been robbed of the ability to swim, fish and gather food from their local waterways.

"The good news is that many farmers now understand the challenges and are making changes. This survey shows the public wants the government to toughen the rules so those who are not doing the right thing will be forced to comply.

"This year, the government is releasing a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater and these survey results show they have the public’s support to tackle an issue Kiwis are deeply concerned about."

The survey results follow the release earlier this month of another Colmar Brunton survey for Fish and Game showing pollution of rivers and lakes is New Zealanders’ top concern.

Of those surveyed, 82 percent said they were extremely or very worried about the issue.

The second biggest worry was the cost of living, with 80 percent extremely or very concerned, while the health system was in third spot on 78 percent, with child poverty fourth on 72 percent.

The survey was done at the beginning of December, before independent scientific tests for Fish & Game showed the presence of dangerous disease-causing bacteria and anti-biotic resistant E. coli in popular Canterbury fishing and swimming rivers.

Martin Taylor says those results show how bad the situation is.

"Anglers, holiday makers and health authorities were shocked and surprised by the findings. We only took samples from three rivers and yet all showed contamination by pathogens from ruminants like cows.

"If we ran the Colmar Brunton survey now, I would expect the results would show even greater concern about water pollution and even more people overwhelmingly in favour of tougher rules.

"The situation is not the fault of dairy farmers. The majority operate within the existing rules - the problem is that the rules are too weak and that has to change."

Martin Taylor says regional and district council politicians should start listening to their voters’ concerns.

"Local body elections will be held later this year and the councillors who have allowed things to get so bad will be looking to be re-elected.

"These survey results show they might have a tough job getting back into office unless they start providing the leadership, commitment and backbone to turn this problem around."


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