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Crucial Policy Missing From Government’s Water Announcement, Say Campaigners

Freshwater campaigners are frustrated the Government has delayed a crucial decision on nitrogen pollution for a further 12 months until after the election.

“We have urged the Government many times to put in place clear and unequivocal limits for nitrogen pollution in rivers and streams, specifically a bottom line that protects ecosystem health.”

“It is the main policy we have been asking for,” says Marnie Prickett, spokesperson for Choose Clean Water.

“It was also recommended by the Government’s own Science and Technical Advisory group that produced hundreds of pages of reports saying that to protect the health of rivers the bottom line should be 1mg/L for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN).”

“Likewise, submissions on the policy made by medical professionals supported 1mg/L because of the implications of nitrogen pollution for human health and the country’s drinking water.”

“But in today’s announcement, the decision on this bottom line has been put off until after the election.”

“This is a great disappointment to many of us who have campaigned for clear, strong freshwater policy.”

“The public will now need to wait until next year to see whether Labour comes through with the 1mg/L recommended by the scientific majority.”

“Polluting industries exploit gaps and ambiguities in policy, which is why this 1mg/L bottom line is so important.”

At the same time, campaigners support a number of parts of today’s announcement.

“The other main policy we pushed for was a cap on nitrogen fertiliser use and we are pleased that the Government has announced that today. Capping nitrogen fertiliser use is an important step forward, although at 190kg/ha/year it is set too high.”

“On the deferred nitrogen bottom lines, we urge as a stop gap that the government introduces what’s called a “look up table” of default values for nitrogen to manage periphyton (a requirement brought in by the National Government) to guide Regional Councils in the interim.”

“The country has witnessed the benefits of government policy being based on best available science in our Covid-19 response. We need exactly the same approach on rivers.”

“We will be keeping on the pressure until the Government has brought in the necessary rules on nitrogen pollution in 12 months’ time.”

“Once the necessary bottom lines are finalised, implementation of freshwater policy will be by regional councils. Regional councils are vulnerable to pressure from polluting industries and need greater oversight by central government. We recommend a Te mana o te Wai/Waterways Commission is established as soon as possible to ensure regional councils protect the public and our rivers.”

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