Cleaning up our rivers and lakes

 Cleaning up our rivers and lakes

Setting higher health standards at swimming spots

·         Requiring urban waterways to be cleaned up and new protections for urban streams

·         Putting controls on higher-risk farm practices such as winter grazing and feed lots

·         Setting stricter controls on nitrogen pollution and new bottom lines on other measures of waterway health

·         Ensuring faster council planning

·         Requiring mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans

·         These actions will be supported by $700m of funding

The Government is delivering on its commitment to clean up our waterways with a new package that will create jobs and benefit the value of New Zealand’s agriculture export and tourism offerings.

Primary sector and other groups will be financially assisted with the implementation of the new clean water standards through a $700 million fund that will create jobs in riparian and wetland planting, removing sediments and other initiatives to prevent farm run off entering waterways.

“Our environmental reputation is the thing that underpins our biggest export earners – tourism and agriculture. It’s time for us to invest in cleaning up our water in order to protect the economic value add it brings,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“Many of our rivers, lakes and wetlands are under serious threat after years of decline and political inaction. If we don’t start cleaning up our water now they will get worse, become more expensive to fix and we risk serious damage to our international clean green reputation.

“New Zealanders want to go down to their local swimming spot in summer and be able to put their head under without getting crook,” David Parker said.

“Cleaning our waterways will secure the future of our meat, dairy and other primary exports and ensure they continue to earn higher prices overseas. It makes both economic and environmental sense. 

“People visit New Zealand because of our clean green image; it’s how we market ourselves to the world. But for too long we have put our reputation at risk as our waterways became more and more polluted. This package is a long overdue investment in our tourism brand and international reputation.

“We know the primary sector is facing challenges in the wake of COVID-19 so the Government has reduced the cost and impact on them, including putting up $700 million in funding to help with clean-up efforts, but without compromising environmental benefits,” David Parker said.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the package will help to increase the value of our primary exports.

“Our high-value overseas consumers want greater assurances that the food and fibre they buy is produced in a sustainable way. Clean water and sustainable farming is entwined with the economic success of the sector, it isn’t one or the other,” Damien O’Connor said.

“All farmers in New Zealand appreciate the value of high quality water and many have done a huge amount of work to improve their practices over the last 20 years or more. Many are leading the way in restoring our waterways.

“Work undertaken to date estimates 80% of dairy farmers won’t be affected by the cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

“Cleaning up our waterways is also job rich and will provide much needed stimulus to our rural economy.

“We intend to deliver this through already established and proven catchment management groups with initial funding announcements to be made soon,” Damien O’Connor said.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw welcomed the reforms and said they were the strongest protections a government has ever put in place for waterways.

“We all rely on clean water as part of our way of life; whether for drinking, for gathering freshwater kai, or for swimming on a well-earned summer break. However, our precious waterways have been in crisis for decades. Not only has this meant that people cannot swim in a lot of our rivers without risking their health, but many of the species that depend on clean rivers, lakes, wetlands and estuaries are now threatened with extinction.

“Today that changes. With mātauranga Māori – or Māori principles – for water management as our guide, we have developed a clear, robust and enforceable set of policies so we can all enjoy and benefit from healthy rivers and clean, safe water for decades to come.

“Of course, we also know that the climate crisis is putting enormous pressure on our water resources. In addition to what we have announced today, the progress our Government continues to make to build a clean, climate-friendly future for New Zealand will not only make life better for our children and grandchildren, but will help support our precious waterways too,” James Shaw said. 

Media contacts:

Vernon Small 021 849 517 (for Minister Parker)

Nikki Prendergast 021 811 248 (for Minister O’Connor)

Danny Stevens (for Minister Shaw) 021 829 206

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