The government’s new freshwater laws, signed off this week, have the potential to create significant unnecessary costs for ratepayers, farmers and entire communities, Federated Farmers says.
“Our rivers, lakes and wetlands are under serious threat after years of neglect. We can’t continue to go on like we are. If we don’t fix things now they only get worse and will be more expensive to fix,” Environment Minister David Parker said.
“Our Action Plan for Healthy Waterways aims is stop the degradation of our rivers and lakes, achieve a noticeable improvement in five years and restore our waterways within a generation.
“Many of the places we swam as kids are not safe to swim anymore. That’s not good enough. Our plan will stop things getting worse and start to reverse the damage.
“We were elected on the promise of cleaning up our waterways and this action plan sets us on that path. Cleaning up polluted waterways is a long-term challenge that will take a generation to fix, but the steps in this plan will make a real difference and get things heading in the right direction.”
The Action Plan for Healthy Waterways sets out the proposed new requirements to improve freshwater, which include:
- Raising the bar on ecosystem health, including protecting wetlands and streams (through a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management)
- Set higher standards for swimming in the places New Zealanders swim in summer
- Interim controls on land intensification, until councils have plans in place (2025) through a new National Environmental Standard (Freshwater NES)
- An accelerated planning process that will enable better, faster and more consistent freshwater management plans by regional councils (through the RMA amendment bill)
- Support for the delivery of safe drinking water and improved management of stormwater and wastewater through an amended Drinking Water National Environment Standard and proposed Wastewater NES.
- Improving risky farm practices where needed including ensuring farmers and growers understand and manage environmental risks through farm plans (Freshwater NES)
“Clean water is crucial to our economy and to our brand as a country. Our primary exports and tourism rely on our clean, green image.
“As Trade Minister I know how important our environmental reputation is, and it will become increasingly important as we seek to improve market access for our goods. It’s essential we stay ahead of the curve and export high quality environmentally sustainable products.”
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said all farmers in New Zealand appreciate the value of high quality water, but the growth across agriculture has simply put more pressure on the waterways across our country.
“Farmers have done a huge amount of work to improve their practices over the last 20 years and some are leading the way in restoring our pristine waterways. But more work needs to be done. The knowledge and skills of those exemplar farmers needs to be shared with others.
“This will give us the quality water that farmers, city dwellers and future generations want and deserve,” O’Connor said.
Parker said many farmers have already taken important steps towards cleaning up our waterways through measures such as riparian planting or excluding stock from river banks. Others needed to catch up.
“This package is about making sure everybody contributes, including those in our towns and cities. We also need to ensure storm and wastewater are up to scratch so sewage does not contaminate our beaches.
“We know some farmers feel they are under pressure and we understand their concerns. That is why we included a $229 million package in the Budget to help with the transition and why we have set a target of a generation to restore our waterways,” Parker said.