Green Party break into rash over Government's clean water targets
Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty blames water quality for a blistering rash on her legs that lasted three weeks after kayaking on Auckland's Lucas Creek.
Yet, Lucas Creek, on the North Shore, is now classified as "swimmable" under new Government standards, despite not being any cleaner than it was back then, in November.
Environment minister Dr Nick Smith yesterday announced a target of making 90 per cent of New Zealand's lakes and rivers swimmable by 2040.
However, the new "swimmable" standard is 540 E coli per 100 millilitres of water, which used to be the standard for "wadeable".
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The announcement followed Delahunty presenting a petition in Wellington on February 21, signed by 12,000 New Zealanders, urging the Government to make rivers swimmable.
The petition was part of the Green Party's Swimmable Rivers campaign, which targeted 10 rivers, including Lucas Creek - the only urban stream.
Delahunty said Smith's announcement merely rebranded dirty rivers as clean.
Lucas Creek had 280 units of E coli per 100 millilitres, according to Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA).
This was higher than the Ministry of Health's guidelines stating 260 units of E coli per 100ml was the limit for safe, clean water to swim in, but well within the new guidelines.
Delahunty said her rash proved the creek was unhealthy.
Urban pollution and waste, due to so much development in the North Shore, is the root of Lucas Creek's problems, Delahunty said.
"If you put a whole cocktail of pollutants in a river it will make it unsafe and swimmable."
Streams were not healthy on the North Shore, because they were exposed to so much stormwater running over so much concrete, she added.
"Everything that goes through our stream goes into the beaches.
"Our beaches are critical and people love the beaches. We want our families to go to the beach and not worry about the pollution coming in from the rivers."
Delahunty is also concerned that one measure of pollution [E coli] is not enough as there are other contaminants in the water that can make swimmers, or waders sick.
The proposed new grades for rivers ignore the risk of getting cryptosporidium, giardia, salmonella, and other waterborne diseases, which account for a third of waterborne illnesses in New Zealand, she said.
Cawthron Institute, a New Zealand leader in river health assessment, welcomes the government announcement as a move in the right direction.
Media spokesperson Nicole Taber said river health is not just E coli, but a whole range of measures and the announcement is a commitment to gathering more data on a holistic level.
"Once we have more data, we can make more policy to reflect that," Taber said.