Wednesday, 19 April 2017 08:55

A long road to clean up waterways

Written by  Pam Tipa
Sir Peter Gluckman. Sir Peter Gluckman.

While the public might hope for rapid restoration of water quality in all rivers and lakes in New Zealand, this is unrealistic and scientifically impossible.

So says Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor.

“In some cases we are dealing with contamination that occurred decades ago, and the legacy effects may take a similar time to flush from the system,” he says in his report ‘New Zealand’s fresh waters: values, states, trends and human impacts’.

“Moreover there are no silver bullets in water restoration: multiple actions are needed, requiring partnerships between central and local authorities, iwi, citizens and businesses including farmers.

He says there are clearly very complicated trade-offs between public expectations, economic drivers and recreational considerations in protecting our fresh water.

Federated Farmers says Gluckman’s water quality report confirms there are no easy, quick fixes to NZ’s water quality challenges, and regarding sources of water degradation all sectors are culpable.

The report rightly identifies the challenge as needing to balance the effects of economic development and recreational pursuits on water quality, and the desire of all NZers to look after our waterways, the Feds say.

Eighty percent of NZ’s waterways have stable or improving water quality, says Feds’ environment spokesperson and national board member Chris Allen.

“Where there are problems, all sectors of society including farmers are culpable and all sectors of society need to be part of the solutions.”

Feds say Gluckman’s report says our fresh water is under pressure from agriculture, hydro power, urban development (pollution from urban stormwater and industrial sources), the presence of introduced species (including didymo and giardia, carp and trout) and climate change.

The findings reinforce Feds’ long-held view that while farmers are part of the problem, we are by no means the whole problem, Allen says.

However Gluckman says in the report the main drivers of change in water quality “are linked primarily to agriculture and recent intensification, mainly dairying”.

“First, and perhaps most obvious, are the detrimental changes to water quality. Livestock farming’s impacts on water quality are both direct and indirect,” he says.


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