Greenpeace says today’s Ministry for the Environment report, Our Freshwater 2020, clearly shows that New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and freshwater are in crisis.
The report cites the shift to intensive dairying, including increasing cow numbers and synthetic fertiliser use, as activities causing major water pollution alongside faulty urban and stormwater infrastructure.
Greenpeace agriculture campaigner, Gen Toop, says the report underscores the need for strong new rules to protect water, and a plan to transition New Zealand to regenerative farming.
"Every New Zealander deserves to swim in clean rivers and drink safe water without fear of becoming sick,’ she says.
"Not only are a majority of our lakes and rivers unswimmable, they’re increasingly uninhabitable for the native fish and animals that call them home, with 76 per cent of our native freshwater fish at risk of extinction.
"Concerningly, we are also seeing nitrate and pathogen pollution rising in many areas, posing serious risks to human health."
Greenpeace is calling on the Government to bring in the long-awaited new regulations to protect freshwater, including a cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.
"Covid-19 has shown us that we need to protect the things that keep us healthy and well, and that includes clean freshwater," Toop says.
"This latest report should serve as a good reminder to the Government that it has a major opportunity, and responsibility, to accelerate the clean up of our lakes, rivers and drinking water, through its infrastructure and stimulus package."
Greenpeace has released a Green Covid Response package, which has been presented to Government Ministers. It calls for a billion dollar regenerative farming fund to help farmers adopt lower-polluting practices, as well as helping to fund the fencing and planting of streams and wetland restoration.
It also calls for major investment in upgrading and modernising the urban stormwater and wastewater network.
Toop says, "Through strong new water rules, like a cap on synthetic fertiliser and major Government support for regenerative farming, we can build a New Zealand where everyone can swim in clean rivers and access safe drinking water, now and into the future."