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National And Labour Agricultural Policies Raise Concerns

Following the release of the National Party and Labour Party agricultural policies environmental groups have concerns, Choose Clean Water's Marnie Prickett, Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor and Forest & Bird freshwater advocate Tom Kay say.

National's Agricultural Policy

At a time when public awareness and concern about environmental issues have never been greater, the National Party wants to turn back the clock on the gains made in recent years to protect waterways and continue with an unhealthy vision for the primary sector that has resulted in polluted rivers and lakes, destroyed wetlands and increasingly unsafe drinking water

National's policy today means they would scrap controls introduced by the Labour-led Government this year on the environmentally destructive practice of intensive winter grazing, get rid of stricter rules for fencing waterways and stock exclusion, allow stock into our few remaining wetlands, undo stricter nitrogen provisions and abandon efforts to measure water use.

Not only that, National plans to encourage more water storage, which will intensify land use and put more pressure on our rivers, lakes, aquifers and people that are already suffering from the effects of polluted water and over-allocation.

Labour's Agricultural Policy

The Labour-led Government’s Essential Freshwater policies now in force should hopefully stop the further decline of freshwater in our rural and urban areas. This has our support. However, we are cautious of the Labour Party's agricultural policy announced yesterday, which suggests mandatory farm environment plans could possibly be used in the place of resource consents.

It is vital for the public to understand the potential risks from the government using farm environment plans in this way. Instead of rules and consents that are enforced by councils and government, farm environment plans would be signed off and audited by private companies.

This means farm environment plans could become a way for high polluting industries to hide and claim work is being done, when they're really just ticking a box.

For Labour's farm environment plans system to work and stop the further degradation of our waterways it must require land managers to be working towards rules and the specific objectives of their catchment that support the health of people and waterways. It also needs to be nationally consistent, to the necessary high standard, be independently audited and publicly available.

This should then be followed through with enforcement by regional councils.

Transparency will be vital in the development of these plans and in their use by councils, otherwise, they will be used to undermine the public interest.

There is a lot of work still to do to make farm environment plans achieve the goals of improving water quality and we are confident that Labour's environmental team will work with environmental groups to make farm environment plans fit for purpose.

New Zealanders want clean water

"We need to accept in the last 20 years that the public has seen successive governments support industry-led accords (notably, with the dairy industry), goals and promises. Over twenty years almost all of these have been broken. This has opened the gate to more and more intensive agriculture that has degraded our rivers and drinking water quality across New Zealand," Choose Clean Water’s Marnie Prickett says.

"Neither party should allow this to happen again. We need to put the health of people and nature at the heart of policy and protect the public interest."

"Colmar Brunton surveys have shown year on year that no matter where New Zealanders live, in town or country, water quality is one of the most significant issues on their minds" Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

"Four out of five voters want our rivers, lakes and streams to be cleaner.

"They want to be able to swim in their favourite swimming holes, they want to be able to fish, and they want to be able to gather enough kai for a decent feed.

"Only five per cent of those surveyed by Colmar Brunton said they didn't mind water being polluted.

"All political parties are on notice this election that they must have strong environmental policies which will protect our natural heritage for future generations."

"The Covid crisis has shown New Zealanders take their health and well-being seriously," Forest & Bird freshwater advocate Tom Kay says

"Clean water is integral to both and voters will punish parties who don't acknowledge that simple - and obvious - truth."

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