Nick Smith’s dirty rivers rebrand ignores pressing risks to public health

Nick Smith’s rebranding of dirty rivers as clean has conveniently left out diseases that account for a third of all illnesses New Zealanders can catch from swimming in dirty rivers, the Green Party said today.

“Nick Smith’s redefinition of water quality not only pulls the wool over New Zealanders’ eyes but it’s disingenuous because it leaves out key information,” says Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

The proposed new grades for rivers ignore the risk of getting cryptosporidium, giardia, salmonella, and other waterborne diseases, which account for a third of waterborne illnesses in New Zealand according to Ministry for the Environment figures.

“The new grades also ignore the risk to animals and humans from algal blooms that are toxic to dogs and potentially toxic to our kids.

“All summer my inbox has been full of public health alerts warning people to stay away from algal blooms in rivers. Yet under the proposed standards, if their e coli count is low they are supposedly safe to swim in.

“New Zealanders called for swimmable rivers, not dirty rivers rebranded as clean.

“Does Nick Smith think New Zealanders are stupid? Does he expect families to take water testing kits to their local swimming holes when they feel like a dip? Even NIWA scientist Gordon McBride, who worked with the Government on the proposed standards, says this new policy is less precautionary than the existing standards.

“Nick Smith’s announcement on freshwater is just another example of the National Government making a to-do about the environment that amounts to nothing.

“It’s just like the predator-free announcement last year that was also all show and no substance. There’s no plan in place to ensure that that target is met. They don’t even have funding for it – the majority of money for it depends on donations by the private sector,” said Ms Delahunty.

 

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