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Next steps for fresh water submission

20 April 2016

Lake Matheson, Te Ara Kairaumati, Geee Kay, Flickr

Over recent years, public concern has grown about the quality of the water in many of our rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and aquifers.

For tangata whenua, the concern about fresh water is especially strong, because iwi relationships with particular awa and roto are central to identity.

The decline in water quality that has become so evident in the last decade has been many years in the making. Turning it around is not easy and will take time. We need to be both aspirational and practical. While our long term goal should be for good water quality across the country, we need to be realistic and focus on protecting our most precious and vulnerable areas first.

It should not be underestimated how challenging it has been to get this far, and the Government is to be commended for its work to date. I am also pleased to see a number of my recommendations being addressed in this proposal. Much of the onus now falls on regional councils to make sure the policy is implemented well.

There are seven sections in this submission on the Government's Next steps for fresh water consultation document. The first summarises five proposed changes that I support. The other six cover areas where I want to see more improvements in policy. These are:

  • the ‘maintain or improve’ objective for water quality
  • the debate about ‘swimmability’
  • the continued omission of estuaries
  • a strategic approach to setting objectives and limits
  • the Freshwater Improvement Fund
  • economic use of fresh water.