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Freshwater policy holds potential if Gov resists pressure

(Headline abbreviated, original headline: Freshwater policy holds great potential, if Govt resists pressure from dairy lobbyists)

Freshwater campaigners welcome the release of Action for healthy waterways policy discussion documents today saying they hold great potential to deliver on the Government’s election promise. However, it is clear there is intense pressure from dairy lobbyists to water the policy down.

“We welcome the Government’s Action for healthy waterways with its improved standards for rivers and lakes and options for rules to tackle pollution from intensive agriculture. However, the final policy must land on the strongest options for the Government to truly deliver its election promises,” says Choose Clean Water spokesperson Marnie Prickett.

“It’s clear that there has been intense pressure from intensive dairy lobbyists, particularly, to water down the policy as the document contains “Industry-set standards” and options that are too close to self-regulation for comfort.”

“New Zealand’s rivers and lakes have suffered for decades while the dairy industry has intensified largely unchecked. To date, poor water quality standards have allowed levels of pollution that threaten the health of people and the environment.”

Freshwater was a top issue at the last election. The public has been loud and clear that it wants to see real action to tackle the pollution of rivers and lakes, Prickett says.

The Labour Party campaigned on achieving swimmable, healthy rivers and lakes within a generation, and more recently the Labour-led government has promised ‘noticeable improvements’ to water quality in five years.
Prickett says that recent polling suggests the majority of New Zealand supports these goals. She says to achieve them intensive dairying must be reigned in.

“While the best farmers are already reducing their leaching to waterways and aiming to work within environmental limits, many intensive high polluting dairy operations remain and dairy leaders refuse to commit to stopping further intensification.”

“Strong options put forward in Action for healthy waterways for National Environment Standards that target high nitrogen leaching and high nitrogen fertiliser use would stop the most irresponsible pollution. But dairy lobbyists want to be able to continue to do whatever they want at the expense of the public.”

The National Environment Standards (NES) presents rules to stop the freshwater pollution from getting worse and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) directs regional plans to manage and restore waterways.

Prickett says the policy’s new standards for sediment, nutrients and aquatic life in waterways are an important and welcome improvement to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

Action for healthy waterways greater focus on ecosystem health with the addition of new standards for sediment, nutrients and aquatic life in the Government’s policy is an important step forward towards restoring our rivers and lakes.”

Choose Clean Water welcomes the document’s higher standards for swimming but is calling for the requirements of councils to meet the standards to be strengthened.

“While we support these higher swimming standards, the final policy must strengthen the requirement of councils to meet these standards so that they don’t succumb to pressure in the regions from those who want to keep polluting or let themselves of the hook.”

“The application of the higher swimming standards must be clarified and strengthened so communities don’t lose out and the Government delivers on its election promises.”

Choose Clean Water does not support the exemption of the six biggest hydro-schemes from national water quality goals.

“It is perfectly feasible the six biggest hydro-schemes can continue to operate as power generators while also playing their part in improving the health of waterways. Fairness means responsibility must be shared across industries.”

Prickett says that it is vital that the public make submissions on the policy.

“The Government will be hearing a lot from those who don’t want to reduce their pollution so it’s really important that they hear as much as possible from the public who want to see rivers and lakes protected now and for the next generations.”

Choose Clean Water will be putting together a submission guide, which they will post on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/choosecleanwaternz

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