Environment Minister should enforce his guidelines in Taranaki, not endorse a greenwash report

Environment Minister Nick Smith should not be endorsing the Taranaki Regional Council’s State of the Environment Report released today, because the Council didn’t follow his Ministry’s own rules when collecting the water quality data.

“Nick Smith should not be endorsing a report which paints an incomplete picture of water quality in the Taranaki region,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

Ms Delahunty was referring to the public release of the Taranaki State of the Environment Report, by Nick Smith at the Quality Hotel in Taranaki today.

“The National Government should reject Taranaki Regional Council’s substandard environmental monitoring, and ensure that the Council follows the rules,” said Ms Delahunty.

“The Regional Council only follow Ministry guidelines for measuring water quality at two out of 18 swimming spots in the region. This is a failure of responsibility and puts the public at an increased risk of getting sick from dirty water.”

Ministry for the Environment guidelines require weekly surveillance monitoring during the five-month recreational period, with a minimum of 20 data points collected, regardless of weather conditions or state of the tide. However, at 16 of the 18 monitored swimming spots, the Council only collects 13 samples in good weather conditions. Collecting samples only in good weather, rather than at random times, means that problems with water quality are much less likely to be detected.

“It is concerning that the Regional Council has been allowed to get away with this substandard monitoring. It means that people in Taranaki may unknowingly swim in a polluted river which could make them sick,” said Ms Delahunty.

“The Council argues its monitoring allows it to better measure trends in water quality. But the Council’s priority should be to follow Ministry guidelines which were designed to better inform families about the risks related to swimming at their local swimming spot.

“Other councils such as Greater Wellington Regional Council and Environment Canterbury manage to follow Ministry guidelines and get trend data.  

“If the Taranaki Regional Council only monitors water quality when water quality is good, then it makes their environmental management look better.

“The people of Taranaki deserve to know the true picture of water quality in the region.”