National's water announcement is election band-aid

"National’s water announcement is an election band-aid on a gaping wound because it doesn’t address the main cause of water pollution: intensification of land use,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

John Key announced that $100 million would be spent on retiring land next to important waterways, and that dairy farmers would be required to fence streams on their properties by 2017. To date, National has allocated $120 of the $400 million it ear-marked in 2011 for irrigation subsidies.

“The National Government is encouraging and subsidising irrigation that will lead to increasing land use intensification – putting more animals and fertiliser on our land – and the science is absolutely clear that this leads to increased water pollution,” said Dr Norman.

“John Key must stop simultaneously subsidising pollution and pollution clean-up and focus on preventing environmental damage from happening in the first place.”

New Zealand's environmental watchdog, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment said that she found it difficult to see how water quality wouldn’t continue to decline in the next few years if we continue with large-scale conversions of land to more intensive uses because mitigation cannot offset the resulting increase in nutrient pollution.

“Fencing dairy cows out of streams is a token gesture if you stop at that. We need to put a halt on dairy conversions in regions where there are already too many cows, and too much pollution in our rivers,” said Dr Norman.

“Ten million per year to retire land near waterways will not solve our water quality problems if we continue to allow more conversions in sensitive catchments.

“Based on Dairy NZ figures – that $10 million a year will only mean 777 fewer cows. Two new conversions and that’s gone.

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

“The draft NPS, written by a group of experts appointed by the Government, required land owners to obtain a resource consent for land use intensification, but the National Government bowed to polluter pressure and removed this requirement in the final version. This means that some regional councils cannot say no to dairy conversions.

“National’s irrigation subsidy will result in the degradation of our rivers and lakes and the taxpayer will end up having to pay for waterway clean-ups.

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 ensure our rivers and lakes are clean enough to swim in.

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

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