Toxic algal blooms on the rise as countdown to new freshwater rules begins - Greenpeace
Dangerous toxic algal blooms in rivers are on the rise. The question is - will the Government’s new freshwater regulations, due mid-year, deal with the threat?
And do they recognise the link between these green nasties and chemical fertiliser?
Canterbury’s Medical Officer of Health is warning toxic algal blooms are on the up in South Canterbury. Several health warnings have been issued in the region asking people and their pets to stay away from several popular swimming spots. (1)
Greenpeace says toxic algal blooms will become more frequent if the Government doesn’t give new freshwater rules real teeth.
"It’s no coincidence that toxic algal blooms are on the rise in Canterbury. This is the region with the highest rate of chemical fertiliser use and highest cow stocking rates in the whole country," says Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop.
Chemical fertiliser and high stocking rates on intensive dairy farms are associated with increased nitrogen pollution leaching into waterways where it helps to drive algal blooms.
Toxic algal blooms can cause skin rashes, nausea and stomach cramps as well as kill dogs and other animals.
"It is very distressing that our lakes and rivers, once places that we all enjoyed, are now places that could make us sick," says Toop.
"This isn’t the New Zealand we know and love. Things have to change."
The Prime Minister made cleaning up rivers one of her key policy platforms in the last election.
During a speech in 2017 she told us: "The main problem is now ever increasing intensive livestock farming, more cows per hectare, more fertiliser and irrigation, all cause more livestock effluent and nutrient pollution to run off into our rivers".
Toop says, "Chemical fertiliser not only leaches directly into our waterways it also encourages overstocking of cows, which we all know, causes more polluted rivers."
There are currently no nationwide rules that limit the amount of chemical fertiliser which can be used. But, the Government is considering including a cap on the amount of chemical fertiliser that can be used in the new freshwater reforms.
"Capping chemical fertiliser is the first step to phasing out the polluting substance altogether and restoring the health of our lakes and rivers."