04 February 2014

Environment Commissioner says Government's proposals to protect water quality missing the mark

Current proposals for freshwater management are not adequate for protecting water quality to even current levels in New Zealand, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.

Dr Wright today released her submission on the Government’s proposed National Objectives Framework (NOF) and amendments to the National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management (2011).

Without changes, Dr Wright says that there is little in the NOF that would prevent the 2020 scenario in her recent report becoming reality.

"The big challenge is the nitrate runoff from the large scale conversion of land to dairy farming."

"Leaving this pressure unaddressed will result in a worsening of water quality in the short to medium term and make the job of improving it much harder and more expensive in the long term. The NPS should require regional councils to adopt interim measures to deal with this pressure," she said.

"My submission is far from radical", said Dr Wright. "Virtually everything I am recommending is consistent with the reports from the Land and Water Forum."

"The intent of the NPS is to maintain or improve the quality of freshwater. But, as proposed, any level of water quality is acceptable provided it is above the national bottom line. This could create pressure on councils to unwind some of the hard-won gains and community agreements that have been made over recent years to improve water quality."

"Many New Zealanders are working hard to protect our rivers and lakes. We need a policy framework that clearly supports and encourages these efforts."

Dr Wright's submission is available here.

ENDS