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“Strong Water Rules Now”: Campaigners Remind PM Of Clean River Promises Outside Parliament Today

Freshwater campaigners will be outside parliament today with large banners reminding the Prime Minister of her party’s 2017 pre-election promises to clean up the country’s rivers.

The group from Choose Clean Water, a student-established campaign to strengthen government water policy, will be outside parliament from 11am with banners calling on the Prime Minister to make good on her party’s promises of ‘swimmable, healthy rivers in a generation’ and ‘measurable improvements within five years’.

The group’s main banner reads, ‘National delivered dirty rivers. Labour must keep its clean river promises’. They will also have signs quoting the Prime Minister on her party's water policy during the run up to the 2017 election.

“Clean rivers and drinking water became a top election issue in 2017 giving the Labour-led government a strong public mandate to make the changes needed,” says Choose Clean Water spokesperson Marnie Prickett.

Prickett says the previous National Government’s freshwater policy was too weak to protect rivers and lakes. She says National’s drive to double exports, with its focus on intensive high-polluting dairy operations particularly, has caused huge damage to New Zealand’s waterways, including putting drinking water sources at risk with rising nitrate contamination.

“National put high-polluting intensive dairy farming above the health of our rivers and the safety of our water for drinking, swimming, fishing and collecting food. It also failed to have a national strategy for requiring poor sewage systems to be fixed and ensuring forestry was responsible for its impacts on waterways.”

The group says Jacinda Ardern spoke powerfully on stopping the degradation of our rivers before becoming Prime Minister, and her Collation Government has since promised to have ‘tough new rules’ to put New Zealand on the path to ‘swimmable, healthy rivers in a generation’.

Choose Clean Water quoted the Prime Minister from her first speech as Labour leader when she said, “It falls now to Labour to enforce a truly swimmable standard for our rivers,”

and that the party would, “require and enforce nutrient limits for all catchments.”

“There are two essential policies for the government to deliver on its promises: a firm bottom line for nitrogen pollution of no more than 1mg/L and clear, effective rules that target the highest polluters, including a cap on nitrogen fertiliser use,” Prickett said.

The group says that economic modelling carried out in 2019 shows Ardern was right to say in 2017, “I have never accepted that we have to choose between a clean environment and a prosperous economy. “

“National’s idea that it was ok to sacrifice the health of Aotearoa’s water to expand high-polluting intensive operations has done a lot of damage. Labour must have the strength, vision and commitment to keep its promises to protect the health of water for the benefit of everyone.”

“Healthy water means a healthy future for all our people.”

The group will meet outside parliament at 11am on Tuesday 11th February, the first day that parliament is sitting for the year. It will remain outside until 2pm.

The group says this is only one of many demonstrations and actions it will take place in the coming months to ensure Aotearoa gets the strong water rules its people and its waterways deserve.

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