Warning about worsening water quality

04:37, Feb 04 2014

Official proposals for freshwater management are not adequate for protecting water quality to even current levels, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, says.

The Ministry for the Environment opened consultation on November 7 for a discussion document named "amendments to the national policy statement for freshwater management 2011".

In that document proposals were made to improve water quality throughout the country, including "bottom lines" for water quality levels and a national objectives framework to set goals for quality levels.

Public submissions closed at 5pm today and Wright was one of those to make a submission.

She released a report in November which found New Zealand's water quality would get even worse by 2020 as the dairy industry continued to boom.

There was little in the objectives framework that would prevent the 2020 scenario becoming reality, Wright said.


"The big challenge is the nitrate runoff from the large-scale conversion of land to dairy farming," Wright said.

"Leaving this pressure unaddressed will result in a worsening of water quality in the short to medium term and make the job of improving it much harder and more expensive in the long term.

"The national policy statement should require regional councils to adopt interim measures to deal with this pressure."

Her submission was far from radical and her recommendations were consistent with reports from the Land and Water Forum, she said.

Her recommendations included restricting exceptions to the national bottom line, freshwater management units be developed and included in the policy statement and the levels set by councils be no lower than those used now.

"The intent of the policy statement is to maintain or improve the quality of freshwater," Wright said.

"But, as proposed, any level of water quality is acceptable provided it is above the national bottom line.

"This could create pressure on councils to unwind some of the hard-won gains and community agreements that have been made over recent years to improve water quality."

Many New Zealanders were working hard to protect New Zealand's rivers and lakes and needed a policy framework that clearly supported and encouraged those efforts, she said.

Fairfax Media