Every week, I get media alerts about unhealthy water, including algae risks at swimming spots and boil water notices in small towns. It got personal the other week when I went kayaking on a river and found a rash on my arms and legs wherever I had touched the water. The rash formed small itchy […]
When Environment Minister Nick Smith said in Parliament that some waterways – like Auckland’s Lucas Creek – are not worth saving because no-one wants to swim in them, he forgot to ask the locals we met last week who have put hours of work into restoring Lucas Creek river to health for their community so that it is safe to swim in once more.
The fifth river in our Swimmable Rivers tour is an urban river on the North Shore called Lucas Creek, which runs from the outer suburban edge near Paremoremo through to the Waitemata harbour. The river came to our attention when Dr Nick Smith, the Minister for the Environment, named it in Parliament as a very polluted […]
On Thursday night I hosted a great swimmable rivers meeting organised by the local Greens in Heretaunga (Hutt Valley). It was great to see about 70 people attend and engage in the topic.
Iain Rabbitts’ belief that drinking water quality, charging for water use and the land use that leads to water quality degradation should be treated separately is part of the problem we have right now in this country. The connection is painfully clear to the people I meet as I travel around the country, visiting rivers […]
Alongside the massive problem of 10 million cattle and their waste entering our waterways, is the lesser but vexed issue of human waste. All over the country, councils struggle with developing wastewater systems that actually work and do not pollute the environment. Success is very mixed because disposal of wastewater and solids to land or […]
We were on our first visit to the Oparara Basin, on the Karamea side of Kahurangi National park, famous for its large natural rock arches.
We may never know exactly what happened to the Havelock North water supply, but either way, how about stopping the pollution of rivers by sewage plants and intensive agriculture?
This week, we had our second stop on our Swimmable Rivers tour, this time in Canterbury at the Waikirikiri/Selwyn River. I had a great day with our two Canterbury MPs Eugenie Sage and Mojo Mathers and our amazing Christchurch staff. The Waikirikiri/ Selwyn rivers runs from the hills to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere through the plains. […]
The cause of the contamination in Havelock’s water remains unclear. It has been established that bacterial contamination from a ruminant animal (cow, deer, or sheep) resulted in people becoming ill. We also know heavy rain and surface flooding occurred just before the outbreak, and prior to that warm and dry conditions had caused cracks to form […]
This week I went to Canterbury to meet a river, the Waikirikiri/Selwyn, which flows from the hill country down to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere through the Canterbury Plains. Mojo Mathers and local Green District Councillor for Selwyn Peter Hill took me for a drive out to Coe’s Ford as the best place to start.
Last Thursday, we carried out our first river tour day in the Swimmable Rivers campaign, in which we are calling on the Government to raise the minimum standard for rivers from wadeable to swimmable. The Ruamāhanga is the river of Metiria’s tupuna and the heart of the Wairarapa. It has some magical spots and some […]
Saving rivers cannot be put in the too hard basket and I am looking forward to meeting water activists across country so we can support your efforts. Clean water is well worth this effort, it’s essential that we clean up rivers and make them swimmable again!
This week I hosted a public meeting at EIT in Hawkes Bay to discuss how we might put a price on the commercial use of water, so that water may be valued and treated more sustainably. I invited a great panel of speakers from a range of backgrounds. I was unsure how concerned people would […]
Last Saturday, my colleague Eugenie Sage took me for a drive across the Canterbury Plains. I had seen from the air the landuse changes across the plains in recent times; a patchwork of crops and stock raising has been transformed into a green desert. Driving through, the treeless expanses are vast. The paddocks are dominated […]
This week, I went to Wairoa and met people affected by the Waihi dam failure and the huge impact of silt build up on the waterways. This disaster started last year when the Waihi dam behind Wairoa sluice gate broke and tonnes of built-up silt poured into the river. The main damage occurred between November and January, […]
Yesterday, a petition of more than 12,000 people was presented to us at Parliament calling for clean water and swimmable rivers. The groups who presented it were Choose Clean Water, Hīkoi Wai Tapu and the Kura Kaupapa Māori o Whakarewa i te reo ki Tūwharetoa. They had travelled from Turangi, walking much of the way […]
It was interesting in Parliament this week, listening to the Prime Minister repeatedly say “I don’t know” to straightforward questions from Green co-leader James Shaw about the effect the dairy downturn will have on farmers, small businesses and rural retailers dependent on a good price on milk solids for their prosperity. In fact, his admission […]
When Nick Smith was questioned about the fact that overseas-owned companies can export freshwater they have bottled for free here in NZ, he answered that there is plenty of water, and at the moment there are only a few companies involved. Our most precious resource and indeed necessity is being bottled and sold offshore for […]
Last week in Honduras, gunmen killed a woman in her home as she slept. Berta Cárceres was an extraordinary leader working in a dangerous context. Her primary mission was protecting the Gualcarque river from a huge hydroelectric dam proposed by multinationals, but she stood for so much more. Berta won the Goldman Environmental Prize for […]
Last week I went up to Paekakariki to visit Flo McNeill who is a driving force in the “Friends of Wainui Stream”. This stream is a beautiful example of community effort of riparian planting and healthy population of native fish and tuna (eels). The water looks clean, although running pretty low at the moment and […]
Last weekend the Government put out a consultation document on cleaning up freshwater called Next Steps for Fresh Water. it has have to look like it’s doing something big, because we are now at a crisis point with water quality. However we are disappointed in the plans, which lack some fundamental and essential commitments to […]
First published in The Press on 1 February 2016 A work colleague recently asked me which rivers and lakes I’d recommend she take her son and nephew swimming during an upcoming visit to Christchurch, somewhere handy to the city. I was embarrassed to email back that she would have to drive for over an […]
This summer there have already been many news items about lakes and rivers being tested for cyanobacteria, a type of potentially toxic algae, which have killed dogs and are potentially lethal to humans. These algae blooms increase when the water levels are lower and the temperatures increase, and areas where there is drought will be […]
We want rivers and lakes that people can swim in – seems a simple enough request, doesn’t it? It’s not unreasonable that our kids and grandkids should be able to swim in lakes and rivers just like we have. However, 62 per cent of our monitored rivers are unsafe to swim in. Before we can […]
Many thousands of people submitted on the proposed National Environmental Standard – Plantation Forestry (NES-PF). A vast majority of the public submissions were particularly focussed on the NES having included GE trees in its mandate. People want these provisions removed, as do we. There were also some very useful detailed, technical submissions concerned about the […]
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) released two reports on freshwater quality and management last Friday. The water quality report shows that dairy conversions are hurting water quality and says that despite great efforts with fencing and planting, large increases in cow numbers are resulting in excess nitrogen and thus pollution in water ways. […]
Seeing swamp kauri mining for the first time this week was a shock. Dark peaty soil had been stripped of its plant cover and giant excavators were digging into wet, swampy soil to unearth logs that had been buried for thousands of years. The land was raw and cut by deep drains. Huge kauri logs […]
This week, some Waikato locals took me and intrepid photographer Amanda Rogers on a tour of some lakes and waterways in their region, and up to the massive dairy conversions in the upper catchment of the Waikato River. It was a powerful experience to start my Waikato tour at a local meeting of worried people […]
Last week the Board of Inquiry into the Ruataniwha irrigation proposal reported their decision on the nitrate limits that would be allowed in rivers affected by the scheme. The decision is a confirmation of some strict limits on the amount of nitrate that can leach into waterways. The Board of Inquiry limit is 0.8mg litre […]
Sunday was World Water Day and since we were travelling from Te Tairāwhiti to Coromandel we stopped by some waterways and had a good look at the water quality. Many of the rivers along the route have been affected by agricultural and industrial pollution. Our photo journey started by the Waioweka (also known as Waioeka) […]
Right now there is a perfect storm for some farmers, but no rain. Drought and commodity prices are hitting hard and creating stress. This is not a new experience, but if drought in particular becomes the new normal, pressure on water resources will increase. It is a challenge to everyone but particularly in Canterbury and […]
Last Wednesday, I went on a tour of some of Northland’s rivers with Millan Ruka from Environmental River Patrol as he monitored water quality throughout Te Tai Tokerau. The dry conditions meant we couldn’t use the boat but we visited a lot of waterways, and it was an amazing drive through beautiful rural countryside. What […]
New Zealand needs to remedy the impact of irrigation and hydro development or lose a majority of our native freshwater fish species, 74 per cent of which are threatened and at risk of becoming extinct. Irrigation, hydro development, fishing and introduced species have reduced the populations of native fish species such as the galaxiids, a […]
Last week, another dairy farmer, this time in Taranaki, was fined $66,000 for recidivist water pollution when he discharged cow effluent into groundwater and a stream. The judge said the farmer’s offending was “wilful, blind and his attitude was negligent in the extreme”. Despite Federated Farmers saying this was terribly unusual, this farmer is not […]
I’m really privileged to take on the responsibility of the water portfolio. Eugenie Sage has done excellent work in this area in the last term of parliament and provided a great platform for further work. Last Parliament my bill to address point source pollution and clean up the Tarawera River was voted down by National. […]
When I presented my submission to the Board of Inquiry on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal I compared the proposed 83 metre high Ruataniwha dam with the Clyde Dam and noted the risk of cost blowouts in the construction process. The 100 metre high Clyde Dam was one of the Third National Government’s ‘Think Big’ projects. […]
Environment Canterbury (ECan) is proposing several variations to its regional land and water plan that will allow for increased nutrient and other pollution from irrigation and intensive agriculture on the Canterbury Plains. Commissioners are hearing submissions on Variation 1 to the proposed Land and Water Plan and I popped along to listen. Variation 1 covers […]
Environment Canterbury (ECan) is proposing a major change to the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan. This change would reduce the river’s minimum flow by a third (from 150 to 102 cubic meters per second) for periods over the summer. A lower minimum flow risks even poorer water quality, more didymo infestation, increased predation of braided riverbed birds nesting […]
[UPDATED] Silver Fern Farms Ltd’s recent application to Environment Canterbury to discharge treated meatworks waste(3500 cubic meters per day) including fat and faecal matter into the Waimakariri River highlights why we need change of Government . We need the stronger national bottomlines for water quality and a network of protected rivers as the Green Party […]