National overseeing increased pollution of Waikato River/Lake Karapiro

National is overseeing massive dairy conversions in the Waikato that are likely to undermine the $210 million taxpayer funded clean-up of the Waikato River, the Green Party has revealed today.

State-owned enterprise Landcorp is converting more than 25,700 hectares of pine forest in the Upper Waikato to dairy. Once completed, the catchment will be home to 30,000 more dairy cows.

“This is another example of National’s ‘break it then use taxpayers’ money to fix it’ approach to rivers,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“It’s both economically and environmentally irresponsible.

“It is also ironic that these dairy farms will pollute the very section of water where the National Party filmed its rowing-themed election advertisement.

“It’s clear that a vote for National will take us in the direction of more polluted waterways.”

The Landcorp conversions are upstream of Lake Karapiro and are predicted to increase the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the lake.

“Using figures from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the conversions are estimated to pollute the Waikato River with 700 tonnes more nitrogen per year. That is the equivalent of 87 truckloads of urea fertiliser per year being dumped into the river,” said Dr Norman.

“In addition, one cow produces 14 times more waste than a human, so effectively National is allowing the equivalent of 720,000 humans to do their business in the Upper Waikato without sanitation.

“The public will end up paying for this, either through funding the clean up or by frequently finding the river closed for swimming.

“The Hamilton City council spent $15 million upgrading its sewage treatment plant to remove about 460 tonnes of nitrogen that would otherwise have reached the Waikato River every year. Yet these dairy conversions, by the Government-owned company Landcorp, will undo that investment, and many other improvements as well.

“National should stop Landcorp from creating a pollution problem that the taxpayer will be forced to clean up.

“National could have put controls on intensification, with its National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, but it ignored expert advice and chose not to.

“It’s time for the Green Party’s plan for clean rivers and lakes. The Green Party will establish a protected rivers network and implement new standards and rules for water quality that will ensure our rivers and lakes are clean enough to swim in.

“Voters have a clear choice this Saturday, National’s rivers that are so polluted you can only safely dip your toe in them, or the Green Party’s plan for clean rivers you can swim in.”

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