Action for Healthy Waterways could make the change we need to restore Aotearoa’s freshwater. But we all need to show our support for its proposals and ensure that strong rules for restoring water quality are embedded in legislation.
Concern for the health of our water is high
Environment Aotearoa 2019 reported that pollution affects almost all rivers and aquifiers. Nutrients, sediment, pathogens and reduced water flow are the worst offenders. Pollution in waterways has resulted in:
- 82% of river length in pastoral farming areas not being suitable for swimming.
- 94% of river length in urban areas not being suitable for swimming.
- 76% of freshwater fish are at risk of extinction.
Unsurprisingly, Kiwis are concerned about the state of their waterways. In a recent survey by Stats NZ, four out of five Kiwis identified the health of our waterways as a key issue.
Action for Healthy Waterways aims to restore our waterways in a generation
In Action for Healthy Waterways the government sets out its plan to clean up our rivers and lakes within a generation. It proposes a suite of amendments to current legislation, including the Resource Management Act and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, as well as a new National Environmental Standard for drinking water supply, freshwater, and wastewater.
These regulatory changes would require different actions in different regions and catchments, but in general would mean:
- strengthening Te Mana o Te Wai as the framework for freshwater management
- better providing for ecosystem health (water, fish and plant life)
- better protecting wetlands and estuaries
- tighter controls to prevent sediment loss from earthworks and urban development
- better management of stormwater and wastewater, and protection of sources of drinking water
- setting higher standards for swimming
- controlling high-risk farming activities and limiting agricultural intensification
- improving farm management practices.
There has already been strong reaction to the plan
For more than a decade central and local government have been working to introduce land use rules that will ensure healthy, clean water in our rivers, lakes and marine waters. Throughout this time, some businesses and individuals whose activities are limited by the proposed rules have rallied against them. Some private interests are lobbying against proposals in Action for Healthy Waterways that represent a limitation on their rights to profit from pollution.
One of the most common objections to strong land use rules is the cost that will be incurred by business. This argument however fails to take into account the cost to all of society, to each and every person and non-human being, of pollution in our waterways – not only now but also the compounding cost for future generations. In short, there should not be a right to profit from pollution.
While some are arguing the plan goes too far, groups in the environmental sector are arguing that the plan doesn’t go far enough. Key concerns raised include:
- using individual Farm Environment Plans to control synthetic nitrogen, with Greenpeace arguing hard nitrogen limits need to be set;
- rules for the protection wetlands are not strong enough – Forest & Bird is lobbying for the protection of all wetlands with no exemptions; and that
- that rules should include requirements for revegetation of riparian areas, not just waterway fencing.
You can add your voice to this important national conversation! In fact, it’s absolutely vital that you do. The more support our government has to introduce rules to limit pollution to waterways the more they can do to protect and restore them!
We believe that restoring our waterways to good health takes action by all sectors of society. We welcome the proposed changes to regulation and legislation in the proposal. If you are concerned about New Zealand’s waterways we urge you to make a submission on this important plan for the future of our freshwater.
Having Your Say
Submissions on the plan are open until the end of October. Follow this link to have your say.
The submission form guides you through the process of making comments on the plan and on your concerns regarding New Zealand’s freshwater.
You can write a detailed response on all areas of the plan or just include a few points on a particular area.
The topics you can comment on include:
Section 1) General responses to the proposal
Section 2) Mana o te wai, hydropower, nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, swimming, ecosystem health
Section 3) Drinking water, stormwater, wastewater
Section 4) Farm intensification, farm plans, excluding stock from waterways, winter grazing
Section 5) Policy
Read Action for Healthy Waterways
Read the position of various organisations