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Government’s Fraudulent Water Reforms Fail Public Pass Mark

The Government’s long anticipated action plan for healthy waterways, released on 28 May 2020, failed to deal with the deteriorated state the public’s rivers and streams and general water resource says the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers.

Federation president Dr Peter Trolove said the inadequacies were so glaring that some would see them as fraudulent and a shameful example of dishonesty and deceit in terms of a broken election promise.

He referred back to documents posted on the Ministry for Environment’s website under “Message from the Ministers”, in which Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker acknowledged that the state of New Zealand’s freshwater was unacceptable.

“At the 2017 election the Government promised action acknowledging at the last election they were given a mandate to address this situation,’ said Peter Trolove.

Both ministers undertook not to “kick the can down the road and leave the hard issues for future generations” and promised to ensure a proposed action plan would be “science-based, predictable, understood by the public, and underpinned by effective regulation and enforcement”.

However the document delivered just days ago was not science-based and not underpinned by effective regulation and enforcement he said.

“It is an action plan that fails to implement any meaningful measures to halt ongoing water pollution while taking care to cause minimal inconvenience to the polluters”.

Peter Trolove identified only two finite actions in the plan to be taken in this term;

1. A cap of 190kg N fertilizer/ha/year

2. To eliminate dairy cattle and pigs from waterways more than a metre wide

“The balance of the action plan was kicked down the road for the next Government and/or for future generations,” he added.

Given less than 20 percent of dairy farmers were reported to use more than 190 kg/N/ha/year and no other farming system would come close, the proposed action would at best protect some dairy cattle from the risk of acute or chronic nitrate poisoning while improving the bottom line for the farmer concerned. The timing of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser application is more critical than amount applied.

The Dairy Accord between Fonterra, Ministries for the Environment , Primary Industries, and regional councils, had been taking credit for eliminating dairy stock from waterways for almost a decade.

It is accepted by the majority of those involved in developing farm environment plans, that plans based on the OVERSEER model were not suitable for effective regulation and enforcement.

Peter Trolove said the proposed $700 million dollar fund for fencing and tree planting would achieve little with the 3 metre setback and “grandfathering” of existing fence lines having no scientific basis and therefore would be seen as simply “as a pragmatic political appeasement to the farming lobby.”

Freshwater was a public resource, a common owned and valued by all New Zealanders.

“It is not simply a commodity for self-entitled landowners and self-interested politicians seeking re-election in the general election later this year,” he said. “The Government’s disgraceful action plan for freshwater is proof the present Government has no interest in protecting New Zealanders from water-borne disease, or increased risks of colorectal and other cancers from nitrate pollution.”

The action plan demonstrated the current Government, despite promises three years ago, was not prepared to step up to protect aquatic ecosystems or slow the loss of the endangered aquatic species that inhabit them.

“It seems the politicians are apprehensive about the forthcoming election and are ignoring public’s expectations about cleaning up waterways while preoccupied with short-term farm profits and serving the idol of GDP. There is no ‘well-being’ for the public’s waterways in government’s proposals,” said Peter Trolove.

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