Cleaning up our water act

Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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OPINION: The Government is pumping more money into making water cleaner.

Environment Minister Amy Adams at the weekend announced a $1.1 million allocation to a fund to support local water quality initiatives that support the Government's freshwater reforms. The projects would involve the community, raise awareness and strengthen collaboration, she said.

Another $1m will go towards improved monitoring to enable better reporting on the state of the country's freshwater. However, a recent survey found nine out of 10 respondents wanted those who pollute waterways to be responsible for cleaning them up.

Most respondents wanted farmers to reduce the impact of dairying and two-thirds supported large-scale irrigation schemes for intensive dairy farming only if measures were in place to prevent downstream pollution.

The survey, commissioned by Fish & Game NZ, has produced findings to reflect its opposition to "dirty dairying" and further expansion of dairying.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle has accused Fish & Game of playing politics in an election year and of using dairy farmers as a convenient football.

He highlighted data showing Fonterra dairy farmers have fenced 22,000 kilometres of waterways at a cost to them (depending on how much riparian planting and maintenance is included in the work) of $100-200m. Through their industry environmental investment, moreover, dairy farmers boosted their industry environmental investment by 61 per cent this financial year to $11m.

DairyNZ's partnerships last year included the Waikato River Authority ($1.2m), which has the job of restoring and protecting the Waikato River with public funding. But the Waikato Regional Council's 20-year snapshot of water quality in Waikato waterways, published last August, showed "serious declining trends" in nitrogen content and water clarity across the region.

The council report suggests the cleanup challenge calls for a titanic struggle against the flow of economic development and the funding provided - while it amounts to millions of dollars - is a spit in a big bucket.

Who should provide that money is the more critical question. The Fish & Game survey indicates most Kiwis want the polluters - and they are not only dairy farmers - to pick up the tab.

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- Waikato Times

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