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Hope for the future of fresh water in New Zealand

Forest & Bird is welcoming a new Government policy on fresh water, which will go a long way to restore waterways in New Zealand by curbing pollution and improving protection for wetland habitats.

The Government has released their proposed National Policy Statement and National Environment Standard on Freshwater Management today, proposing stricter standards for pollution and improved bottom lines for the minimum standard of ecological health of our waterways.

“New Zealanders love their rivers and local swimming holes and the amazing animals that live in our streams and wetlands like native eels and kōura,” says Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

“But right now, after decades of neglect and pollution, our fresh water is in crisis. Seventy-six percent of our native freshwater fish are threatened, 90 percent of our wetlands have been destroyed, and the majority of our rural waterways are too polluted to swim in.”

“We cannot continue with business as usual,” says Mr Hague.

“Relying on self-regulation like farm plans hasn’t worked, and fencing and planting are not enough to fix the crisis on their own.”

“There are a lot of details in the policies that need to be worked through to ensure new rules will protect human and ecological health. Forest & Bird will be submitting on the proposals to make them as effective as possible, and we encourage all New Zealanders to do the same.”

“Forest & Bird supports the intent of these documents to bring back our rivers, wetlands, and lakes, and clean up the water that both people and wildlife need to survive.”

New freshwater policies will, for the first time, provide for ecological health by tracking fish and invertebrate presence in waterways, and measuring sedimentation in streams and rivers.

They will also cut fertiliser use and pollution going into waterways, protect urban streams, and improve protection for wetlands on both public and private land.

“The Government set aside almost $300 million in the Budget to help farmers transition to environmentally-friendly practices, but we also need strong rules to prevent the worst practices. Report after report has shown the major driver of our freshwater crisis is intensive agriculture, but the current rules allow too many cows, too much fertiliser, and continued wetland destruction,” says Mr Hague.

“To protect what we love, we need strong rules - no more half measures.”

“We can have sparkling local rivers for swimming in, and healthy wetlands where kōtuku/white heron are feeding, and tuna/eels are returning to their ancestral waters.”

“Having a strong new national policy and stricter standards will put us on the path to restoring fresh water in New Zealand.”

Click here to read a fact sheet on freshwater issues prepared by four Environment NGOs.

ends

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