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Government Freshwater Reforms Doomed to Fail?

A river and trout fishers’ advocacy concern at chemicals entering the public’s rivers and streams, has been heightened by government’s much vaunted fresh-water reforms ignoring a number of them.

The New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers (NZFFA) has given strong support to the Soil and Health Association and Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility both which recently claimed that environmental chemicals and heavy metals had been left outside the scope of government’s freshwater policy process.

The two organisations made the revelation in a hard-hitting paper in response to the release of the Ministry for the Environment Action for healthy waterways discussion document.

NZFFA chairman Dr Peter Trolove said such chemicals should be monitored and controlled at a national level.

“It considers that the legislation and regulations covering the use of these agents are inaccurate, outdated and not based on current sound science,” he said..

Peter Trolove, a veterinarian with both production animal and fish health experience, pointed to the use of antibiotics and anthelminthics, but especially to the use of glyphosate and its surfactants as just some of the chemicals harming our waterways.

“And also to a lack of accountability for their use, misuse or effects, both environmentally or healthwise,” he added.

The NZFFA was especially concerned over ECan’s current practices of aerial spraying Canterbury’s entire braided river systems with up to 5 times the label dosages of glyphosate for weed control in order to help transport the millions of tons of erosion from the rivers headwaters to the coast.

“This has contributed both directly and indirectly to the greatly diminished native and recreational fisheries” he said. “Not only do these chemicals destroy the macro-invertebrates sustaining both native and salmonoid fish in these rivers, the resulting siltation smothers the riverbeds and estuaries where they would normally live”.

Peter Trolove also pointed out that the river beds were the habitat and breeding ground of distinctive bird species such as stilts and terns.

“One is prompted to ask the Department of Conservation over this issue. They are conspicuously silent,” he said.

To suggest that the “Healthy Rivers Reforms” simply cover nutrients, sediment and bacteria in isolation and ignore chemical pollutants was setting yet another reform up for yet another failure said Peter Trolove.

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