Strongest ever water reforms mean swimmable rivers within a generation

The Green Party says major freshwater reforms announced today provide the strongest ever protections of our waterways, to help ensure the next generation can swim in the rivers of Aotearoa.

The reforms fulfil part of the Green-Labour Confidence and Supply Agreement with the delivery of freshwater reform.  

“We pushed for greater protection of our waterways, and we’ve delivered. While some protections could be stronger, these reforms are a significant improvement on the status quo,” Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today.

“This introduction of robust, clear and enforceable policies follows decades of advocacy from the Greens, and are cause for celebration.

“Water is life, and has an innate value to all of our communities. We have a collective responsibility to protect this taonga, and to ensure future generations have access to clean rivers they can swim in, gather kai from, and drink from.  

“These major reforms create evidence-based, enforceable rules which will ensure that everyone plays their part in protecting these precious resources.

“For decades, successive Governments have allowed our waterways to be degraded, but these strong freshwater protections will help us turn around that legacy of neglect.

“The inclusion of mātauranga Māori – or Māori principles – for water management as a mandatory consideration recognises the significance of healthy waterways to all of our communities. We all want clean rivers, and now that vision is a step closer.”

Green Party Environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage said the national policies and standards delivered in many important areas, which the Greens and public interest groups have spent decades advocating for.

“Our rivers, lakes, wetlands and estuaries are home to many native species. New Zealanders rely on them for recreation, from fishing to kayaking and picnicking.

“Rivers and aquifers provide us with water to drink and use, and to irrigate the land so we can grow food. We all need healthy waterways and these reforms offer them a lifeline.

“The Green Party is especially pleased that the reforms tackle the major issues of land management and water pollution. We know that nutrient pollution is bad news for rivers and aquifers. High levels of nitrogen cause algal blooms and are harmful to wildlife and to human health.

“All in all, these are really strong water reforms. The Green Party has fought hard for the protection and better care of waterways so that all of us, and future generations, have access to healthy rivers and lakes and clean, safe water.

“This is a major improvement which will benefit all of us and further shows the strength of having Greens at the Government table.

“Now that these robust reforms are in place, the Green Party will continue to push for their effective implementation, and a fair approach to water allocation.”  

Today’s announcement follows the Government’s release of the strengthened National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and National Environmental Standards to guide councils in how they apply the Resource Management Act around freshwater.

Key wins:

  • Strict limits on nitrogen toxicity.
  • Caps on nitrogen use and clear and firm standards to support ecosystem health.
  • Science-based limits on E.coli (an indicator of faecal pollution) so that swimming and food gathering are safe.
  • Compulsory farm management plans that will work alongside plan rules and standards to help all farmers implement best practice and adjust to the new limits.
  • Strong rules to protect wetlands which are important as habitat.
  • A requirement for fences to be three metres from waterways.

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