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Govt Must Be Honest On Swimmable Rivers

Govt Must Be Honest On Swimmable Rivers

MEDIA RELEASE: 30 August 2016

For Immediate Release

If the government is sincere about swimmable rivers and lakes for New Zealand, they’ll need to answer a few questions for the public says freshwater campaign group, Choose Clean Water.

The group says New Zealanders have resoundingly called for swimmable to be the bottom line and that the government should respond by putting in place legislation that protects and prioritises clean safe freshwater and people’s health.

In the recent freshwater public consultation, three quarters of New Zealanders who made submissions raised swimmability as a key concern.

Ms. Prickett says the group is interested to hear Environment Minister Nick Smith’s State of the Environment announcement due later today, which the government has said will include information on swimmability.

However, Choose Clean Water remains skeptical because of Smith’s previous commitment to ‘wadeable’ as the standard, she said.

“New Zealanders are not interested in hearing how the government plans to duck and dodge around real water quality improvements.”

“We want to hear an honest, straight forward commitment to a swimmable bottom line today.”

“We can’t go on like this. Freshwater pollution is hurting people and killing wildlife.”

“When we pollute freshwater, we make people sick. Sick water, sick people. It’s that simple,” says spokesperson Marnie Prickett.

Choose Clean Water lists the following questions for Smith:

1. The acceptable standard for swimming is an E.coli 260 per 100ml of water. At this acceptable level of E.coli people swimming have a less than 1% risk of campylobacter infection according to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines. Above this the risk of campylobacter infection significantly increases according to the Ministry of Health.

Does the government agree that this swimmable standard should be New Zealand’s bottom line for rivers and lakes?

2. How many people does the government expect to get sick if New Zealand doesn’t have a swimmable bottom line for lakes and rivers?

3. Given the seriousness of the pollution of freshwater and its effects on human, animal and wildlife health we have already witnessed will the government act with urgency to stop the pollution of our rivers and lakes by bringing forward the date councils have to implement changes (they currently have until 2030)?

4. Intensive farming and sewage are two of the biggest risks to human health in terms of water quality.

What plans does the government have to deal with the contamination of freshwater from these two sources?

5. Toxic algae and too much sediment makes water unsafe for people and wildlife.

How does the government plan to address toxic algae and too much dirt in waterways?

6. Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Whanganui are two examples of regions with growth strategies that include agricultural intensification.

Given that the cause of the Hawke’s Bay water crisis has been identified as a ruminant (cow, sheep or deer), does the government plan to revise these regional plans to limit intensification to keep freshwater safe?

7. “Swimmable areas” were mentioned in the announcement for Nick Smith’s speech today, what does the Minister and Prime Minister expect “non-swimmable areas” would be like?


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