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Campaigners will fight National's new freshwater policy

Campaigners will fight National's new freshwater policy

For immediate release

Clean river campaigners say the government’s changes to freshwater policy to be announced today are yet another blow to New Zealand’s declining rivers and lakes and a slap in the face to the public who have resoundingly called for a swimmable bottom line.

“After years of public calls for cleaner, swimmable rivers and lakes, the only thing Nick Smith and the government's new policy is going to do is lower swimming standards and make things worse,”said Choose Clean Water NZ spokesperson, Marnie Prickett.

“Nick Smith's new policy will allow more faecal contamination into rivers and lakes where New Zealanders are swimming – which means more poo in the water and increasing risk of infection. This is a slap in the face for all New Zealanders who have rationally called for safe, unpolluted rivers.”

“It’s unbelievable in an election year, the only thing that National can offer New Zealanders is a policy that will make pollution of rivers worse. A policy that would increase health risks to the public. We call on New Zealanders to join us in the fight against these plans. We will not let the government continue to pollute fresh water.”

The group says Nick Smith has responded to the public’s calls for swimmable rivers and lakes in the new policy by simply devising a new definition of swimmable that allows more pollution.

“Instead of dealing with the sources of faecal contamination going into our rivers, National just wants to make it legal for more poo to be in the places New Zealanders swim, to make it look like more rivers and lakes get a pass. It’s disgusting and reckless.”

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“We know how waterborne illness effects human health, think of the people of Havelock North. We heard today in the media of the ongoing of battles of those who are still suffering the effects of the gastro outbreak. The Ministry of Health also says children and the elderly are likely to be at greater risk of infection from swimming in contaminated water.”

The group points to advice given to the government from the Land and Water Forum in a letter sent to ministers, Nick Smith and Nathan Guy, in August last year. The forum, an industry dominated group, describes the new swimming standards as “less precautionary than the primary contact standard in the current MfE (Ministry for the Environment) and Ministry of Health microbiological guidelines.”

Prickett says Nick Smith needs to answer the question today: Why is the government recklessly making the standards for swimming weaker than they are already?

“The government is making our freshwater crisis worse. They are risking our people’s health by rubber stamping faecal contamination in the rivers and lakes they swim in. We’re not going to stand aside and let them do this to New Zealand. The government have a serious fight on their hands”

Supplementary info:

· Scientists use the bacteria E.coli as an indicator of the level of faecal contamination of water and the associated risk of illness.

· The acceptable swimmable standard given in the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Health’s microbiological guidelines is a E.coli count of <260 per 100 mL of water. To meet the Ministries’ standard, waterways must pass this 95% of the time.

· The Ministry of Health’s drinking water standard is an E.coli count of <1 per 100 mL of water.

· The standards the Land and Water Forum advise would see a grade given to rivers based on the amount of time they meet a standard of E.coli <550 per 100 mL of water (this count is called ‘Alert’ in the MfE/MoH guidelines).

· Choose Clean Water is a student-led group who presented a 13,000 signature petition to parliament last year calling for the bottom line for freshwater to be raised from “wadeable” to swimmable (primary contact) and for the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, to have as its priority the health of people, wildlife and the environment.


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