You can make a difference for freshwater today!

4 Oct 2019 by The Million Metres team

Submit today on the Government’s new plan to halt waterway decline in Aotearoa. You have until the end of October to submit and help ensure our government has a clear mandate to set strong rules to limit pollution and degradation of our waterways.

Action for Healthy Waterways could make the change we need to restore Aotearoa’s freshwater. 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 New Zealand rivers and aquifers. 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 being 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 storm water 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 environment. Throughout this time, some businesses and individuals whose activities are limited by the proposed rules, have rallied against them. With the announcement of the Action for Healthy Waterways plan, some private interests are again lobbying against limitations on their right to profit from pollution.

A common objection to strong land use rules is the cost to business. This argument fails to take into account the cost that pollution of our waterways has on  the rest of society. A cost that compounds over time and is passed down to future generations.

While some contend that the plan goes too far, groups in the environmental sector argue that the plan needs strengthening further. Key concerns include:

  • The use of individual Farm Environment Plans as the mechanism to control synthetic nitrogen levels, with Greenpeace arguing hard limits need to be set;
  • Rules for protecting wetlands contain too many exemptions, with Forest & Bird lobbying for the protection of all wetlands irrespective of their size and current land use, and that
  • Rules protecting on-farm streams should include requirements for revegetation of riparian areas, not just 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, storm water, 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

  • Science and Media Centre here
  • National Institute of Economic Research here
  • Federated Farmers here
  • Beef + Lamb New Zealand here
  • Fonterra here
  • Greenpeace here
  • Forest and Bird here Includes an easy to use submission template