Government’s proposed water quality measures don't cover North Shore streams

Water bubbles beneath a film of oil and silt in a polluted North Shore stream.
LAINE MOGER/FAIRFAX NZ.

Water bubbles beneath a film of oil and silt in a polluted North Shore stream.

North Shore's streams and rivers are not required to meet any standard for human health and safety, according to an environmental organisation.

Forest & Bird has released a series of maps showing which streams and rivers are not covered by the Government's newly announced "swimmable" water standards.

The North Shore map shows almost every stream and river is excluded from the new monitoring system, including Wairau Creek at Milford Beach.

Forest & Bird's map shows, with blue lines, which streams and rivers are covered in the Government's new reform - only ...
Forest & Bird

Forest & Bird's map shows, with blue lines, which streams and rivers are covered in the Government's new reform - only Lucas Creek on the North Shore.

Forest & Bird's chief executive Kevin Hague said only larger rivers, marked in blue on the map, must meet the proposed standards.

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"The rest, including the smaller rivers that flow into these larger rivers, are exempt from any standard," Hague said. 

Green party members kayak Lucas Creek as a part of raising awareness for the party's Swimmable Rivers campaign.
Supplied

Green party members kayak Lucas Creek as a part of raising awareness for the party's Swimmable Rivers campaign.

The new "swimmable" reform targets waterways over 40 centimetres deep, the practical swimming depth determined by the policy.

However, Hague argues, while many streams may be too shallow for adults, they are popular with children to play in. 

"Given the popularity of many of these rivers and streams, this places Kiwi families at an unacceptable risk of contracting illness," Hague says.

Green Party followed Forest & Bird's announcement with a media release stating Nick Smith "cannot be trusted" to look after New Zealand's rivers and lakes.

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Water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty says New Zealand needs a new, genuine plan for swimmable, clean rivers.

Environment minister Nick Smith says the "swimmable" reform has set these targets because they need to be practical. 

"It would be unworkable on a national scale to target the smaller streams of the size in the North Shore," Smith said.

He added that North Shore streams have "different dynamics", such as being marine environments or estuaries, therefore are not covered under the new freshwater reform.

However, this does not mean they have zero protection because of the National Policy Statement for freshwater management, Smith says.

"Auckland Council must remain vigilant to maintain monitoring of smaller, marine and estuary waterways in the North Shore, not covered in the new reform," he said.

Auckland Council's healthy waters strategy and resilience manager Andrew Chin says that, in general, to improve the water quality in North Shore's larger streams, the water quality in smaller streams that feed into them must be improved too.

The National Policy Statement and the Auckland Unitary Plan cover all streams and rivers. Therefore, Auckland Council will be focussing on improving water quality in all waterways, not just those above 40cm, Chin said.

 

 - Stuff

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