Expert reaction gathered after Government launches action plan for healthy waterways

The Government has announced its programme to stop the degradation of New Zealand’s waterways and clean up its rivers and lakes within a generation.  The Science Media Centre has posted expert comment on the plan.

Environment Minister David Parker said the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways (here) sets out the proposed new requirements to improve freshwater, which include:

  • Raising the bar on ecosystem health, including protecting wetlands and streams (through a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management)
  • Set higher standards for swimming in the places New Zealanders swim in summer
  • Interim controls on land intensification, until councils have plans in place (2025) through a new National Environmental Standard (Freshwater NES)
  • An accelerated planning process that will enable better, faster and more consistent freshwater management plans by regional councils (through the RMA amendment bill)
  • Support for the delivery of safe drinking water and improved management of stormwater and wastewater through an amended Drinking Water National Environment Standard and proposed Wastewater NES.
  • Improving risky farm practices where needed including ensuring farmers and growers understand and manage environmental risks through farm plans (Freshwater NES).

Mr Parker said:

“Clean water is crucial to our economy and to our brand as a country. Our primary exports and tourism rely on our clean, green image.

“As Trade Minister I know how important our environmental reputation is, and it will become increasingly important as we seek to improve market access for our goods. It’s essential we stay ahead of the curve and export high quality environmentally sustainable products.”

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said all farmers in New Zealand appreciated the value of high quality water, but the growth across agriculture has simply put more pressure on the waterways across our country.

“Farmers have done a huge amount of work to improve their practices over the last 20 years and some are leading the way in restoring our pristine waterways. But more work needs to be done. The knowledge and skills of those exemplar farmers needs to be shared with others.

“This will give us the quality water that farmers, city dwellers and future generations want and deserve,” Damien O’Connor said.

David Parker said many farmers have already taken important steps towards cleaning up our waterways through measures such as riparian planting or excluding stock from river banks. Others needed to catch up.

“We know some farmers feel they are under pressure and we understand their concerns. That is why we included a $229 million package in the Budget to help with the transition and why we have set a target of a generation to restore our waterways,” he said.

The Science Media Centre has gathered expert comments on the plan, which has been released for public consultation.

The full range of comments is available on the SMC website.

Sources:  Minister for the Environment; Minister of Agriculture;  Science Media Centre 

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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