Russel Norman recently submitted to many Councils’ LTCCPs through the country on the importance of planning to restore our waterways to health. Other MPs and Greens ably presented his submission at hearings around the country that he couldn’t make.
Jeanette pushed for retention of the Clean Streams funding for riparian planting and fencing in the Waikato LTCCP. The Waikato Times reported:
The Fisheries Ministry and Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons both warned Environment Waikato (EW) councillors about the danger of pulling the plug early on the [clean streams] programme. They joined the chorus of submitters at the council’s long-term plan hearings in Hamilton who [sic] calling on council to rethink its decision on clean streams.
In its draft long-term council community plan (LTCCP), EW scraps its $1 million funding of its flagship clean streams programme, proposing that the entire budget for the programme be removed from next month. The fund can be used by farmers to subsidise fencing off waterways from stock and the planting of riparian areas.
Ms Fitzsimons said her party was particularly concerned at the proposal to cut the programme funding because there was still a lot of work to do. Given the absence of a national policy statement and environmental standards on water quality, it was up to councils, such as EW, to remedy the water crisis.
Auckland Regional Council sought a summary of the situation there in response to Russel’s submission and the conclusions of the data are useful to understand the problem and illustrate the importance of waterway restoration:
The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) monitors the state of the freshwater environment in representative rivers and streams throughout the region. The water quality programme monitors the physical and chemical properties monthly at 27 sites and the ecological quality programme monitors the biological community at up 63 sites annually. …
A notable finding of both monitoring programmes is the large variation in the water and ecological quality of rural sites. Riparian characteristics varied from sites with little vegetation and no fencing, to sites with effective fences and vegetated buffers. Sites with riparian vegetation and fencing typically had higher water and ecological quality than those without. This suggests there is an opportunity to improve both the water and ecological quality of degraded rural streams through riparian enhancement, particularly given that over 60 percent of the region’s streams are in this land use type.
Two things amongst others that the Greens are pursuing to improve this situation are:
1. Our Green New Deal stimulus package contains a costed proposal to provide Government funding to support Regional Councils in their clean stream programmes. However, the intensification of agriculture has and will continue to overwhelm such efforts, so…
2. We’re supporting the Land and Water Forum to negotiate an integrated policy solution to the national problem of water quality decline, and the problems with allocation of water under the RMA. This is via a collaborative governance process – an untested model in NZ. But given the urgency and importance of the issue, it’s worth a crack. The Sustainable Programme of [In]Action has run since 2003 and failed to deliver anything to solve the problem.
While some water pollution issues such as phosphates in sediment can be irreversible, it is heartening to note the conclusion of a broad study that:
Most polluted or damaged ecosystems worldwide can recover within a lifetime if societies commit to their cleanup or restoration, according to an analysis of 240 independent studies by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
In their study, freshwater ecosystems took between 10 and 20 years to recover. As Eric Clapton sings:
Because I believe if there’s a will, | Sure enough, honey, there’s a way.