River swimming goal 'undoable'

Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014

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Adhering to the new national standards for rivers and lakes could cost the Taranaki Regional Council hundreds of thousands of dollars.

National water quality standards for New Zealand's lakes and rivers will come into force on August 1, following government consultation with more than 60 freshwater scientists from the public, private and academic sectors across the country.

The new policy means that, for the first time, rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements which must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

Director of environmental quality Gary Bedford said the council already spent more than $1.5 million a year on monitoring water quality and the Government proposals for councils were unrealistic.

"We could simply say ‘we're not going to do anything more than we do already, what are you going to do about it'. Or we could say we'll start testing everything and everywhere and it would be serious costs."

He said the cost would lie around the "hundreds of thousands" mark.

"We're not saying there will be a rates increase, but someone has to pay for it."

Bedford said the new standards included how often councils should be sampling waterways and how many sites they should be testing to prove all the water in the entire region was up to standard.

He said they had to work out a sensible, worthwhile and pragmatic approach for the council.

Chief executive Basil Chamberlain said the Government needed to move away from the simplistic catchphrase "swimmable" and be realistic.

"Making [waterways] everywhere swimmable, it ain't doable. Full stop."

Chamberlain said the "one size fits all" approach to national water quality limits would not withstand a cost-benefit test.

Director of resource management Fred McLay said Taranaki people had already spent a lot of money addressing water-quality issues, meaning water quality was not as degraded as elsewhere.

The Green Party has dismissed the new bottom lines as "weak" and argues the measures mean rivers will only have to be clean enough for wading or boating.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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