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Water is the key environmental issue this election

Water is the key environmental issue this election

The Green Party has said that cleaning up New Zealand’s polluted rivers and lakes has become the key environmental issue of the election, and they want to take charge of the issue after the election whether National or Labour are leading the next Government.

“The Green Party has a plan to clean up our polluted rivers and lakes. After the election we want to lead the implementation of that plan regardless of which party is leading the Government,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“The Greens have led projects outside of Government before, such as Buy Kiwi Made. We think New Zealanders trust our leadership on this issue.

“A recent study by Lincoln University found that water pollution is rated by New Zealanders as the most important environmental problem facing our country. We need action now to clean up our waterways.”

Dr Norman is kayaking the Waikato River today, travelling past Auckland’s drinking water intake. The Waikato river has visibility of over 12 metres at its source in Lake Taupo and less than 30cm where Auckland’s water is drawn from. Over 70 percent of the nitrogen pollution in the river is from non-point sources, mostly intensive agriculture.

“Labour and National know the public want to clean up our waterways. Both parties have put forward water clean-up plans, but neither is as comprehensive as the Green Party’s in addressing the causes of pollution,” said Dr Norman.

“National’s promise to subsidise more intensive agriculture will make matters worse. Nearly every study on water quality shows that land use intensification leads to water pollution.

“Over half of our monitored rivers are unsafe for swimming and one third of our lakes are unhealthy. We need decisive action in the next three years to clean them up.

"Healthy rivers are essential for a healthy economy. Our clean and green brand underpins our tourism and agricultural exports. Cleaning up our rivers and lakes is a way to protect and enhance our 100% Pure brand.”

Dr Norman said the Green Party had developed a three-part plan which, if implemented, would make our rivers and lakes clean enough to swim in again:

1) Set standards for clean water and intensive agriculture;

2) Introduce a fair charge for irrigation water and;

3) Support water clean-up initiatives.

“Our standards for clean water will require stock exclusion from rivers and lakes within five years. Planting riverbanks and excluding stock from waterways has been shown to significantly improve water quality within three years,” said Dr Norman.

“We will cut the over-use of water by introducing a charge on irrigation water that would raise $370 $570 million per year. This will provide the funds to support river clean-up projects by farmers and councils.

“We will create jobs that help clean up our waterways by funding people to work alongside farmers to fence and plant streams. We will also provide financial assistance to councils to upgrade sewage treatment plants so that sewage will no longer pollute our rivers.”

References:

Lincoln University’s Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment 2010 http://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/dspace/handle/10182/3875 study: http://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/dspace/handle/10182/3875
Green Party’s Clean Rivers plan: http://www.greens.org.nz/cleanrivers
Waikato River background information and statistics: http://blog.greens.org.nz/2011/04/29/aucklanders-you-know-youre-drinking-the-waikato-river/

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