The Green Party has pledged to invest $20 million a year for 10 years to help small towns and communities upgrade sewage-treatment systems.
The party wants to reinstate the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme for smaller communities, but with stronger environmental criteria.
The scheme was established in 2002 but National wound it up, with the last funds allocated last year.
The Greens would give priority to communities where the community's existing treatment, disposal and discharge system posed health risks.
The maximum subsidy for eligible capital works would be 50 per cent for communities of up to 2000 people, reducing proportionally to 10 per cent for communities of 10,000 people. Priority would be given to projects that found land-based solutions for sewage.
Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today that many small communities struggled to pay for the infrastructure required to keep sewage out of their rivers.
"Families should be able to head down to their local swimming hole or beach and jump right in the water without worrying about getting sick," Norman said.
"We must stop National from using our rivers as drains, and establish or upgrade wastewater systems where needed.
"Some of our waterways are being used as drains for partially treated sewage. The Green Party will reinstate a government funding scheme to help councils upgrade their sewage treatment systems and implement land-based disposal solutions," Norman said.
The announcement is the fourth component of the party's environmental priority this election: rivers clean enough for swimming and beaches safe from oil spills.
Norman said councils such as Hurunui in Canterbury had called on the Government to reinstate the scheme and "the Green Party has listened because we recognise that smaller communities with a low rating base need help to upgrade their systems".
"The major decline in our rivers and lakes over the past decade has largely been due to agricultural intensification. However, towns and cities have contributed to the pollution problem and need better wastewater systems.
"There are over 425,000 kilometres of rivers in New Zealand. Rivers are our lifeblood - culturally, spiritually, and economically and it's in all our interests to make them clean and healthy."
- The Dominion Post
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