Government must move on health of waterways, says F&B

June 30, 2017

Government must move on health of waterways, says F&B

Agriculture is increasingly blamed for pollution in waterways. Photo: Jorge Royan

With many of its native fish species facing extinction, New Zealand’s eco system is in big trouble. Says Forest & Bird's Fresh Water Advocate Annabeth Cohen.

Ms Cohen said  “We know that the environment has a limit and if we’re ready to accept that we’ve hit that limit and that it’s time to change, we’ve got some real things we need to do.”

Multiple reports have found New Zealand’s freshwater is under increasing pressures

The most recent report released from the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ in April found agricultural and urban areas are producing too much pollution.

The Our Fresh Water 2017 report found nitrogen levels are getting worse at 55 per cent of monitored river sites across New Zealand, 72 per cent of our native fish species either at risk or threatened with extinction, 31 per cent of our native freshwater plants and 38 per cent of invertebrates are at risk.

Secretary for the Ministry of the Environment Vicky Robertson said the latest report pointed to both agricultural and urban practises contributing to the problem.

Ms Robertson said there were data gaps in the report but it showed there was a large impact on species loss and on biodiversity.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also released its 2017 Environmental Performance Review recently which found New Zealand is lacking in a long-term plan to address the worsening condition of its polluted waterways.

Otago University freshwater scientist Marc Schallenberg said the OECD report showed New Zealand needed to constrain its use of resources.

The Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, then released an independent report, looking at the state of New Zealand’s freshwater systems.

Ms Cohen said Professor Gluckman’s report showed how fresh waters in New Zealand were under stress because of what we, humans, do in and around them, specifically in the sense of agriculture.

Chief executive of the Environmental Defence Society Gary Taylor said technical steps need to be taken to reduce stock numbers on farms.

Mr Taylor said limits on stock numbers and on water discharges were required.

Ms Cohen said the same issues were presented in each of the reports and they all showed that nature is in crisis.

She said the government was focusing too much on swimability rather than creating a healthy ecosystem.

Mr Taylor said the issue had not been prioritised robustly enough.

“It’s just not good enough, we really do need to turn things around and act quite quickly.”

Discuss

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