New Zealanders want rivers we can swim in, not get sick in

The National Government must urgently amend its water standards so the minimum requirement is that rivers are safe enough to swim in, after the Environment Aotearoa 2015 report released yesterday shows our lakes, rivers and other waterways are paying the price of continual dairy intensification.

The report showed shocking increases in nitrogen levels caused by dairying intensification, to the point where nearly half or our waterways have enough nitrogen to trigger potentially toxic algal blooms.

Today John Key said he was unconcerned, that there is no need to put a stop to more dairy farming, and that the environment could handle more; yet Environment officials have laid the blame for declining river quality on intensive use of land, especially dairy.

“This report is just more evidence that dairy intensification is having a detrimental effect on our waterways,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“The National Government has the power to do something about this, it can stop further land conversions, and it can demand our rivers are clean enough to swim in, not merely wade through or boat in, as its current standards require.

“Landcorp’s dairy conversions in the Upper Waikato, where 42,000 cows are planned for 26,000ha of former forestry land, will create 1.6million litres of dairy effluent that will leach into the Waikato River, while millions of dollars and volunteer hours are spent downstream cleaning the river up. The Government can put a stop to this.

“The National Government seem to think it’s ok to pollute our water in the name of growth. It’s short term thinking that the last few months of dairy price fluctuations has proven to be flawed.

“Regional Councils implementing the NPS are taking a collaborative approach, which is all very well and good, but it means fresh water quality is threatened while councils wait for this to happen. It means Landcorp and others can continue to pollute the Waikato River with dairy effluent while downstream millions are spent cleaning the river up,” Ms Delahunty said.

The Environment Aotearoa 2015 report raised water quality as well as climate change and biodiversity as environmental matters that have worsened since 2007.