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Water quality undermined by Government inaction



Water Spokesperson

Associate Spokesperson for the Environment

Water quality undermined by Government inaction
Environment Minister Nick Smith should quit shedding crocodile tears over the continued pollution of waterways such as Southland’s Waituna Lagoon and introduce national freshwater standards instead, says Labour's Water spokesperson Brendon Burns.

The health of the lagoon, revered internationally for its birdlife and wetlands and visited by Dr Smith this week, is being seriously threatened with dairy farm runoff a major cause.

“The Minister keeps trotting out the idea that greater collaboration between farmers, regional councils and others can solve the deteriorating water quality of the lagoon and elsewhere around the country,” Brendon Burns said.

"But collaboration only works if it is underpinned by Government policy. For a decade, there have been attempts in Southland to ‘collaboratively’ address water quality issues largely caused by the dairying boom in the province. Instead, these treasured lagoons have got progressively more polluted.

"Dr Smith attempts to trumpet the cooperative approach taken by the Land and Water Forum. What he forgets to mention is that the Forum's version of the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management was gutted by the Cabinet - which added 19 changes, most of them allowing continued agri-business expansion at the environment's expense.

"Then he says Environment Southland faces a huge challenge to reverse the pollution. Environment Canterbury faced a similar challenge, yet when it recommended introducing national water quality standards and began putting curbing access to more water, it was axed by the National Government,” Brendon Burns said.

“If Dr Smith is genuine about seeing improvements in water quality at Waituna Lagoon and elsewhere he needs to add some teeth to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater, rather than limply leaving it to regional councils, who are often challenged by farming interests and rates pressures.

"Labour has had enough crocodile tears from Dr Smith. He has to front up to his pro-growth Cabinet colleagues and tell them they are putting New Zealand's economic base at risk by continuing to promote growth without the necessary environmental tools to help regain our 'clean green' reputation," Brendon Burns said.


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