The Government’s fresh water reforms aren’t so fresh after all

tukituki-riverLast 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 cleaning up waterways.

Minister for the Environment Nick Smith kept his focus on getting animals out of waterways. Of course, that is a good idea and we need national rules and fines that act as a deterrent, especially after the cattle in the lake debacle at Hugh Fletcher’s farm in which cows were deliberately let into a lake to drink, but the farmers escaped fine. But new water quality measures and new fresh water management units will not create the urgently needed improvements unless the Government commits to a goal of swimmable rivers.

The Government has heard the concerns of many groups about the need to use macro invertebrates (insects) as an indicator and as a measure of water quality. It has seen the public outrage about cattle in lakes and rivers and Regional Councils who have weak bottom lines, but will not take the actions needed to save water quality and our economic future.

To be clear, weak standards, and weak rules will continue to allow water quality to get worse. The goal must be swimmable rivers and must be a strong national requirement. It is painful to consider what “no one owns water” has led to in terms of water abuse. We should honour Te Tiriti, stop the large scale dairy conversions and create consistent rules in a planned and vigorous transition to swimmable rivers where native fish species can survive.

A study on oestrogen from cow urine polluting rivers has raised a new issue of contamination. This one of many red flags that we have a crisis. So it’s  time for real action not more collaborative meetings based on a goal of wadeable waters.

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