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Thursday, July 3

Government’s bottom lines for water create a licence to pollute

The Government has pulled the plug on cleaning up our dirty rivers so they are safe for swimming, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party was commenting on the Government’s national bottom lines for water quality released today by Environment Minister Amy Adams. They amend the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management to set a national bottom line for human health of secondary contact recreation. This means that rivers only have to be clean enough for wading or boating but don’t have to be clean enough to swim in.

“New Zealander’s want clean rivers that they can swim in. Around 90 percent of public submissions called for this. Yet the Government’s weak bottom lines have ignored public views and will allow our rivers to become more polluted,” said Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

While water quality must be maintained or improved across a region, the minimal acceptable state for rivers is to meet a standard of secondary contact recreation. This means making our rivers and lakes safe for paddling and wading rather than the primary contact recreation standard which means safe for swimming.

“This means that while some rivers in a region are improving, councils can let others degrade to a condition that is too polluted for swimming

“National’s bottom lines for water quality have big gaps and amount to a licence to pollute.

“We have a freshwater crisis on our hands with more than 60 percent of monitored river swimming sites unfit for swimming. The Government’s national bottom lines won’t fix it and instead allow irrigation and intensive agriculture to expand.

“We desperately need effective regulation that prevents further degradation and improves the quality of our rivers and lakes. The Government’s changes to the National Policy Statement won’t achieve this.

“We can have strong national objectives and bottom lines that ensure our rivers are clean enough to safely swim in,” said Ms Sage.