Water standards 'easily achievable'

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2014

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Taranaki's environmental watchdog says it will have no trouble meeting new national water quality standards.

Despite being criticised by Massey University ecologist Mike Joy, the Taranaki Regional Council said years of careful planning meant water quality was rising.

The Government announced this week that lakes and rivers will have to meet minimum water quality standards, which critics sayare too weak.

Council chief executive Basil Chamberlain said putting the rules in place would require some additional work for the council, but extensive monitoring had put the region in good stead.

The new regulations were not enough to satisfy Joy, who said the rules have been diluted to allow dairying to expand.

Chamberlain said the new standards would not cause particular challenges for Taranaki.

"Many years of extensive monitoring show that freshwater quality in Taranaki is in pretty good shape when relevant national and international comparisons are made," he said.

The Government will contribute $3 million annually for four years to help councils meet the standards, but Taranaki is already in a good position to comply, Chamberlain said.

The national changes put limits on the amount of toxins and bacteria that can be present in water, but Joy said rivers started to deteriorate long before these limits were met.

"If you asked the medical profession, what's the toxic level of alcohol in the bloodstream, and you used that as your drink-driving standard, can you see how stupid that would be?

"Long before you get killed by the alcohol, you crash the car."

Joy said the standards were deliberately achievable so as to not hurt the dairy industry.

A map by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) published by Fairfax Media in May showed that high agricultural producing regions, including Taranaki, were all in the "red" zone of nitrate levels - above 0.8mg a litre.

Joy said the TRC did not do enough testing to show how nitrate levels were increasing.

"To get an idea of how bad Taranaki is, all your rivers are over the limit."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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