Green Party tags Mataura River as one to clean up and make safe for swimming

The Mataura River
RACHAEL KELLY/FAIRFAX NZ

The Mataura River

The Mataura River is one of 10 in New Zealand the Green Party has pegged to clean up and make safe for swimming.

The 10 rivers were announced at the party's annual conference in Christchurch on Sunday.

Environment Southland chairman Ali Timms said improving water quality was the regional council's number one priority and they would be pleased to get the help.

"If they want to come down and work with the council we definitely welcome that."

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Southlanders wanted water they could swim in rather than simply wade in, she said.

On Friday Environment Southland released its proposed Water and Land 2020 and Beyond plan to the public for feedback.

The plan outlines how it will help clean up waterways.

However, improving water quality would take time and money, she said.

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty said the Government had given up on clean rivers, with nearly two-thirds of them unsafe for swimming.

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The Greens had launched a petition crucial to help fight for the rivers to ensure they were safe for swimming now and in the future, she said.

"Rivers can be clean enough to swim in, but only if the Government lifts its 'wadable' standards and demands they be swimmable instead."

The Greens will visit and highlight what needed to be done to make the rivers clean enough to swim in again, Delahunty said.

Some of their action included making a minimum that all water bodies be safe for swimming in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management rather than the present 'safe for wading and boating' standard, develop national standards to limit the amount of pollution going into the water and put a levy on pollution going into the water, Delahunty said.

On their visit they would be looking at all threats to the rivers, such as pollution hot spots and dairy run off.

There had already been huge efforts by Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe to clean up the river and the Greens wanted to support that work.

The Mataura River had been chosen as one of the 10 because it had suffered from intensive agricultural production.

"Southland has already shown leadership on water standards...the Greens are backing up the need for action to protect our rivers."

Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay said the Greens needed to remember that Southland's economy was largely agriculture-based, and they needed to be sensible and pragmatic in an approach.

"To propose a blanket, nationwide moratorium on dairy conversions as well as unrealistic, unfair timeframes across the board will absolutely cripple our local economy."

Environment Southland's proposed Water and Land Plan was the first step towards giving effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, he said.

"We've done more than any other Government in our history to improve water quality of our lakes and rivers. We introduced the first National Policy Statement on Fresh Water in 2011 and the standards framework in 2014."

In a statement Environment Minister Nick Smith said while he welcomed the Green's interest in cleaning up New Zealand's water, the party was late to the campaign.

"It is ill-informed for the Greens to blame the current Government for New Zealand's water quality issues when all the science shows these issues go back many decades."

In last month's budget, Smith announced $100 million of funding had been set aside to clean up waterways, spread across 10 years.

The 10 rivers are:

· Wairua in Northland

· Lucas Creek in Auckland

· Waikato

· Tarawera in Bay of Plenty

· Tukituki in Hawke's Bay

· Waitara in Taranaki

· Ruamāhanga in Wairarapa

· Manawatū

· Selwyn in Canterbury

· Mataura in Southland

 - Stuff

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