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New Coalition To Fight For Rivers

Media Release

New Coalition To Fight For Rivers

It was announced today that four long established environmental and outdoor recreational organisations have joined together to fight to save New Zealand’s rivers from the growing threats caused by irrigation, hydro schemes, pollution, and increasing limitations on access.

At a launch in Hamilton, by the banks of the polluted Waikato River, representatives of Fish & Game New Zealand, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Federated Mountain Clubs and the New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association spoke about the new “Living Rivers” coalition.

Speaking for Fish & Game New Zealand its chairperson, Mr Sandy Lawrie, said: “2004 has been an extraordinary year for New Zealand’s finite and precious waterways. The number of threats that have emerged this year against their survival is unprecedented.”

“There have been reports from a range of Government agencies identifying rivers for more dams, revealing high levels of waterway pollution, and attempts to weaken the environmental protection ability of the Resource Management Act. There have been more private enterprise proposals to channel our wild rivers into hydro-energy developments when its utility as a future source of energy is highly debateable”.

“We are very concerned at moves to weaken the Water Conservation Order provisions of the Resource Management Act. Water Conservation Orders have saved many important rivers from degradation for example, the Buller, Rakaia, Rangitata, Mohaka, Motueka rivers and many others.”

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“Water Conservation Orders are precious. They protect rivers better than anything else. They give rivers virtual National Park status and yet there is a move to weaken and perhaps abolish them.”

“We are campaigning for the protection and enhancement of our rivers. This means waterways ranging from the small streams flowing through backyards of inner city houses to the great braided rivers of the South Island,” Mr Lawrie said.

In September Fish & Game organised a seminar in Timaru to examine, with various experts, the state of our rivers. The organisation was so concerned at the evidence produced that it joined with Federated Mountains Clubs, Forest and Bird and the Canoeing Association to raise awareness with the public and politicians of the threats New Zealand’s rivers face and the need for urgent action.

Mr Lawrie cited evidence from reports produced by the National Institute for Water and Atmospherics (NIWA), the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development.

“If there is one report which sums up the threats to our water it is the critically important report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams, ‘Growing for Good? The sustainability of intensive farming in New Zealand.’ ”

“The Report says the rapid expansion in the use of nitrogen fertilisers, increased stocking rate, and increased irrigation were threatening New Zealand’s soils and freshwater. The Report concludes that there is strong evidence that New Zealand waterways are becoming nutrient enriched and degraded from animal faecal matter and nitrogen.”

“Next year is election year and we believe that the state of our rivers needs to be put firmly on the political agenda.”

ENDS

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