The Land and Water Forum’s mandate should be improving water quality, not making as much money from water as possible before the environment collapses, the Green Party said today.
The group, made up of iwi and stakeholders such as Dairy NZ, Irrigation NZ, commercial interests and some environmental NGOs, released its fourth report today, making recommendations to the Government on maximising the economic use of water within the limits of the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), as it had been tasked by the Government.
“The National Government’s view that water is measured for its ‘productive value’ rather than as a taonga and resource for New Zealanders and future generations, is reflected in this report,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.
“The problem is the NPS is too permissive in the first place, allowing polluters to get away with making our rivers too dirty to swim in, and then the Land and Water Forum are told to find ways that will exploit our waterways within that framework.
“The Land and Water Forum’s next task is to recommend improvements to the NPS and the National Objectives Framework for freshwater, which should be done now rather than after all this other work.
“The NPS allows waterways to be polluted to the point where they are only safe for boating and wading, when rivers should be safe to swim in.
“This report isn’t about improving water quality – which needs to be addressed urgently – it’s about commercial interests being able to use water cheaply.
“The Forum’s report also looks at integrated catchment management that will involve setting limits on the amount of pollution allowed to enter catchments, which is a great idea in principle, but with the NPS being so permissive, those limits will also be weak.
“The idea behind the Land and Water Forum is a good one – bringing together stakeholders from both the commercial and environmental sides. But with a mandate that is all about short-term profits, the collaborative process is fundamentally flawed.
“We saw how flawed the Land and Water Forum’s process is when Fish and Game walked away from it recently. They agree that the Government’s goal in bringing stakeholders together is to silence dissent, and focus on resource development, not protection,” said Ms Delahunty.