New Zealanders asked for swimmable rivers – but they’re still wading and waiting

New Zealanders who want swimmable lakes and rivers have been let down by the Government’s freshwater announcement today, which does nothing but shift the goalposts, the Green Party said.

In an announcement expected to require stronger standards for freshwater bodies, the Environment Minister Nick Smith has simply re-labelled the standards, so that what was once only safe for wading is now to be considered safe for swimming.

“The Environment Minister thinks he can pull a fast one on New Zealanders by just shifting the goalposts and calling what was ‘wadeable’ now ‘swimmable’,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“New Zealanders asked for rivers clean enough to swim in, not a re-branded version of ‘dirty’.

“There is nothing in today’s announcement that will stop the pollution of our rivers from dirty dairying, or the damaging effects of irrigation.

“By saying that a river with a grade of ‘excellent’ can be so polluted that 1 person in 20 gets sick from a waterborne disease, Nick Smith is deceiving our kids and grandkids, who are missing out on clean rivers.

“Nick Smith can dress up these changes as conceding to New Zealanders’ demands for clean water, but he’s just shifted the goalposts.

“Nick Smith is afraid to make the hard calls that are needed to clean up our rivers. We aren’t.

“The Green Party has the solutions that will clean up our rivers and make them safe for swimming again; no more new dairy farms, better urban design and ending subsidies for irrigation are just a few that will protect and improve the health of our rivers,” said Ms Delahunty.

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