$100 million a 'drop in the bucket' for freshwater

Environment Minister Nick Smith, middle, pictured swimming in the Manawatu River, has announced $100 million for ...
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ.

Environment Minister Nick Smith, middle, pictured swimming in the Manawatu River, has announced $100 million for waterways in the Budget.

A $100 million fund set aside to clean up waterways has been labelled an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced the funding which will be spread out over 10 years as part of the Government's 2016 Budget.

Smith said the funding would support initiatives to clean up New Zealand's rivers, lakes and aquifers.

The funding was met with mixed reactions.

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Choose Clean Water Spokeswoman Marnie Prickett said it was "an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for our rivers and lakes".

While Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon said he was heartened by the funding as freshwater was a priority for the region.

Smith said there were significant costs for councils and landowners in meeting the Government's new national standards for freshwater.

The new contestable fund would help communities improve water quality standards, he said.

The "Freshwater Improvement Fund" is in addition to $354 million already committed to specific freshwater clean-up projects since 2000, including the Manawatu River, Lake Ellesmere, Lake Taupo, and Waikato River.

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Prickett said the cost of cleaning up four Rotorua lakes alone was set at $144m.

"Every region in our country is experiencing serious issues with freshwater pollution."

She said $100m was "a drop in the bucket" in terms of what would be needed across the country.

"We need to stop pollution from entering our water in the first place and the Government still doesn't have a credible plan for doing this."

Gordon said the regional council was fortunate to already work with central government over a range of projects that aim to improve water quality.

These include schemes such as the Manawatu River Leaders' Accord, Lake Horowhenua Accord and Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI).

"As parts of these projects draw to a close, we are excited about the opportunity that this new fund provides to continue our partnership with central government, and our communities, in this water quality space."

Prickett also bemoaned the budget's reduction in Department of Conservation funding.

"DOC land is where many of our last remaining pristine waterways are but they are increasingly vulnerable with a weak Department of Conservation.

"Once again, John Key and the Government shows us that they don't care about what is most important to New Zealand and New Zealanders, clean safe freshwater. 

Smith said the new fund was about maintaining momentum in improving New Zealand's freshwater management.

"We are showing that with Government funding and strong community partnerships we can improve freshwater quality." 

 - Stuff


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