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World Rivers Day: Time to commit to swimmable rivers

World Rivers Day: Time to commit to swimmable rivers

World Rivers Day, which is today, is the perfect time for Environment Minister Nick Smith to commit to making New Zealand’s rivers safe for swimming, not just wading, the Green Party said.

“If you go swimming in the Selwyn or the Ruamāhanga – rivers that we are visiting on our Swimmable Rivers campaign – you run the risk of getting sick from a waterborne disease. Under the National Government, this is okay – rivers only have to be safe for wading or boating, not for swimming,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“Nick Smith has used all sorts of excuses for why the bottomline for our rivers can’t be swimmable, from bird colonies to geothermal activity. He can’t admit that pollution from the 10 million cows in New Zealand, each producing 15 times the amount of waste as a human being, is a bigger problem.

“We’ve asked regional councils how many waterways in their area are actually affected by birds and geothermal or volcanic activity, and the numbers are minimal.

“Protecting our rivers so they are safe for swimming doesn’t fit the Government’s view that water is a resource to be exploited for economic gain above all else. That view has left nearly two thirds of our lowland rivers unsafe to swim in.

“The Green Party has practical solutions for turning off the pollution and protecting our rivers so that we and future generations can enjoy them for years to come. As we travel the country on our Swimmable Rivers tour, we’re talking to communities, mana whenua and councils about how our solutions would work for their river.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive – people really want our rivers to be safe for swimming and are prepared to do the work to get them there. It’s a shame the Government doesn’t have the same commitment or passion for our environment,” said Ms Delahunty.

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