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Government Must Honour Promise To Clean Up Rivers

The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers has called on the Labour-Greens-NZ First coalition government to honour its 2017 election promise to clean up deteriorating rivers.

NZFFA president Dr Peter Trolove said In 2017 the Government was elected on two key promises to build more homes and to clean up the public’s freshwater.

“Will it be just another broken promise?” he asked. “While logistics may limit the amount of houses that can be built, the revision of the standards contained on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is only limited by the competence of the responsible ministers and their political will.”

Consultation on the proposed freshwater standards is complete. The proposed standards have been subjected to oversight by the Scientific Technical and Advisory Group, (STAG). If the present government does not deliver fit for purpose freshwater standards before this year’s election it would continue a legacy of dirty (water) politics inherited from the National government he said.

Canterbury’s dirty water politics reflected a broken democracy when the National government inflicted state control on Environment Canterbury (ECAN), sacked elected councillors and replaced them with ‘puppet’ commissioners.

In response to the 2007/08 financial crisis Canterbury and its water resources were “sacrificed for the sake of New Zealand” when the Key government scrambled to increase GDP.

“The result was a desperate and reckless government knowingly facilitating massive irrigation development in a region with unsuitable vulnerable soils before regulations and the means to control the inevitable nitrate pollution were in place. Ironically Canterbury dairy farmers the initial beneficiaries of this irrigation development now see their equity disappearing through fears of the costs of addressing the escalating nitrate pollution that is occurring throughout the region’s surface and groundwater.”

The Chief Commissioner for Human Rights, David Rutherford found the subsequent extension of the ECAN Act a breach of democracy.

In November 2019 Canterbury finally returned a democratically elected ECan with ten new councillors elected because of their concerns about the region’s water.

“They will have to overcome a culture of water exploitation/pollution – a legacy of the government appointed commissioners,” said Peter Trolove. “Now the present government should honour its promise, which was reaffirmed the next year after the election when in a “Message from the Ministers” Essential Freshwater, Healthy Water, Fairly Allocated MfE October 2018, David Parker and Damien O’Connor acknowledged the Government won a mandate, and had a duty to improve the quality of the public’s rivers.”

The two ministers had admitted there was no easy fix, because realistically it sometimes took many years for the pollution already contaminating the public’s land and water to dissipate.

“But we are not going to keep kicking the can down the road and leave the hard issues for future generations” said Ministers Parker and O’Connor.

Given the 2018 assurance of Ministers Parker and O’Connor the least, the two ministers, could achieve was the setting of meaningful national freshwater standards before the elections in September 2020.

“With the track record of the National Party, a failure by the present Government will show our present form of (indirect) government is not fit for purpose, said Peter Trolove.

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