Govt’s water plan will drive species to extinction

Press Release – Forest And Bird

Forest & Bird says the Government is ignoring the needs of the threatened species that live in our waterways and misleading the country with claims it will make rivers swimmable again. In a submission today on the Clean Water Package, Forest & Bird …Government’s freshwater plan will drive threatened species to extinction

28 April 2017
Forest & Bird says the Government is ignoring the needs of the threatened species that live in our waterways and misleading the country with claims it will make rivers swimmable again.

In a submission today on the Clean Water Package, Forest & Bird says New Zealand’s rivers and lakes are in crisis and the Government is not doing anything about it, despite its promises to the Land and Water Forum.

“Over a prolonged period, the Government has failed to take the steps necessary to avert the freshwater crisis, instead actively promoting dairy farming and subsidising land use intensification through irrigation,” the submission says.

“This has resulted in deteriorating water quality throughout New Zealand, and the loss of native species.”

Yesterday the Government’s Our fresh water 2017 report outlined the perilous state of our freshwater animals and plants – 72 percent our freshwater fish, 34 percent of invertebrates and 31 percent of plants are threatened or at risk of extinction.

Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague says focussing on the politically sensitive issue of whether people can swim in rivers while ignoring the fact that huge numbers of native aquatic species face extinction is not acceptable.

“Ecosystem health is about more than swimmability, it is about liveability for our native freshwater species,” says Mr Hague.

“The Government’s Clean Water package is business-as-usual. The target to make 90 per cent of rivers swimmable by people is a distraction from ecological health – and even the swimmability target disintegrates when you read the fine print.”

Forest & Bird says the Government must honour Environment Minister Nick Smith’s promise to adopt bottom-lines on ecological health (the Macroinvertebrate Community Index, or MCI) and set nitrate levels that are not toxic to aquatic life.

It is also calling for the “90% of rivers and lakes swimmable” target to be legally binding and to apply to all rivers and lakes, not just a select few, and says the Government must stop supporting the irrigation schemes that are allowing dairying intensification that damages waterways.

“In the last month the Government has had not one, not two, but three reports telling it that it must act to preserve our freshwater and its ecosystems,” says Mr Hague.

“The National Policy Statement on Freshwater is a real opportunity to do something about the critical state of our freshwater, and we can’t afford to get it wrong.”

Forest & Bird’s submission can be found here.

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