Report stirs up freshwater policy debate

New Zealand’s waterways will not being getting cleaner any time soon under current government policies, according to a new report examining freshwater management.

The report was produced by the Cawthron Institute and commissioned by Fish & Game New Zealand. The document analyses the government’s current National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater Management to see how it stacks up against recent recommendations from the Land and Water Forum and a previous board of inquiry.

The NPS was announced in May and attracted criticism from freshwater scientists for a lack of urgent action on water quality:

“Delays or a business as usual approach will see substantial loss of water-related ecosystem services (e.g., processing of nutrients and decomposition), increased threats to public health (e.g., toxic algal blooms) and very likely even extinctions. “

– Angus McIntosh – Professor and Mackenzie Foundation Chair in Freshwater Ecology, University of Canterbury 

“New Zealanders are already bearing a substantial cost for the protection of Lake Taupo and the restoration of the Rotorua lakes and the Waikato River. There is some acceptance that this cost will be spread across the community given that there was limited knowledge of the implications of past land use changes on water quality and quantity, but this is no longer the case and we cannot continue to externalise the costs to communities and the New Zealand taxpayer of pollution by private industries.”

– Professor David Hamilton, Waikato University, President of the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society 

Read these and other expert reaction to the freshwater NPS, collected by the SMC in full.

The new report from the Cawthron Institute reviews the policy statement and compares it against the findings of a Board of Inquiry on which the statement was based on. The conclusions of the report state:

“The lack of national standards that apply to all water bodies and the likely long period for implementation, combined with new subsidies for irrigation schemes are likely to result in further intensification of land use, suggest that despite the NPS the condition of New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and wetlands is likely to continue to decline for several more years and possibly much longer.”

You can read the full report here.

The report was announced in a press release from Fish & Game and subsequently gathered national media attention.

Media Coverage:

TVNZ News: Polluted rivers ‘will only get worse’ – report

Dominion Post* : Lake Taupo may turn into ‘cesspit’

Radio New Zealand: Water quality policy questioned

NewsTalkZB: Water changes backwards – Labour

* Also published in Nelson Mail, Sunday Star Times, West Coast Press, Southland Times, Manawatu Standard, Taranaki Times and Marlborough Express.