Green Party launches Member’s Bill to protect our freshwater

The Green Party has today launched a member’s bill that will keep water from underground sources, called aquifers, safe from pollution and contamination.

Co-leader James Shaw announced the move to a full house in his keynote address at the Green Party’s candidates’ conference in Upper Hutt.

“New Zealanders are hugely concerned about the state of our fresh water – whether it’s our rivers or our drinking water – and it’s going to be a big issue for voters this year,” said Mr James Shaw.

“We’re putting a stake in the ground – the Green Party is the only party that will prioritise protecting our fresh water and our drinking water from pollution and extraction. This Bill, in the name of our water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty, is an important part of our freshwater plan.

“By making the protection of groundwater quality a matter of national importance and putting stronger rules around discharges to aquifers in the Resource Management Act (RMA) as this Bill does, we’ll ensure that decision makers including Ministers and councils give greater weight to their protection in their planning and decision-making. It’s the very least our waterways deserve.

“Our aquifers - layers of water underground - have not been adequately protected and are vulnerable to pollution from land use.

“Not only do 40 percent of New Zealanders rely on drinking water that comes from aquifers ­- including Christchurch, our second largest city - but they are also critical to the health of other freshwater bodies. Aquifers feed wetlands, lowland rivers and lakes, and contribute to their flows and levels. When a river gets too low, the impact is dire for the plants and animals that rely on the river.

“Taking too much water from aquifers for private commercial uses such as irrigation and water bottling has become an issue of increasing public concern.

“In Canterbury, taking too much water from aquifers for commercial use has had a significant impact on spring-fed streams, turning swimming spots like Coe’s Ford into puddles of algae.

“Communities around New Zealand are concerned about the amount of water that is extracted from aquifers for commercial activities such as irrigation and water bottling, while being told they must boil their own drinking water because of contamination. This happened earlier this week at Te Matatini Kapa Haka championships. We shouldn’t have to worry if the water coming from our taps is safe.

“Māori already recognise the importance of our aquifers and groundwater – Ngāti Kahungunu fought their local council to protect their aquifers from pollution. It cost the iwi $100,000, which they should not have had to spend protecting water,” said Mr Shaw.

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