The National Government is pouring millions into subsidising irrigation for intensive farming yet failing to protect our waterways from becoming even more polluted, Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today.
"The National Government's announcement today of an initial $80 million for irrigation, through a new Government company, is a subsidy for intensive farming and will see our rivers, lakes and aquifers polluted even faster.
"More irrigation and more intensive agriculture with increased stocking, and more fertiliser will result in greater water pollution.
"Government irrigation subsidies will worsen our already severe water pollution problems.
"Irrigators get to pocket profits yet when the degradation inevitably happens, the taxpayer will end up having to pay for waterway clean-ups.
"The Ministry for the Environment's recreational water quality monitoring shows 52 per cent of our rivers are unfit for swimming," Ms Sage said.
Many rivers are in crisis - a Marlborough raft race planned for Saturday is being run on the riverbank because the river is too polluted and flows are too low, toxic algae in Hawke's Bay's Tukituki River have killed a dog, and elsewhere too many rivers are too polluted or low to swim in.
"The new State company will assess schemes seeking funding against five criteria. The absence of any environmental criteria which require the scheme to improve river health, reduce water pollution and benefit aquatic ecosystems is telling. Once again the National Government is promoting development at the expense of the environment.
"At the same time the National Government is subsidising irrigation it is reducing the ability of the Department of Conservation and community organisations to use the RMA to advocate for healthy rivers. It has slashed DoC funding, weakened water conservation orders and the RMA.
"The National Government is trying to hide the extent and seriousness of our water quality problems by ditching consolidated nation-wide state of the environment reporting. That reporting needs to be reinstated immediately."