Commisioner calls for clarity on clean water proposals

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is calling on government to pick up its game on water standards.

Current proposals for freshwater management are not adequate for protecting water quality to even existing levels in New Zealand, according to the Commissioner.

Dr Wright outlined her concerns in a submission on Government’s proposed National Objectives Framework and amendments to the National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management, which she released publicly this week.

The key concerns outlined in Dr Wright’s submission focused on a lack of clarity around how regional authorities are to maintain standards, noting that there is potential for water quality standards to drop – as long as they remain above national minimum standards, also known as ‘bottom lines’. In addition, she also expressed concern over ambiguity around how areas of water are defined and how exceptions to the standards are determined.

“My submission is far from radical”, said Dr Wright in a media release. “Virtually everything I am recommending is consistent with the reports from the Land and Water Forum.

“The intent of the NPS is to maintain or improve the quality of freshwater. But, as proposed, any level of water quality is acceptable provided it is above the national bottom line. This could create pressure on councils to unwind some of the hard-won gains and community agreements that have been made over recent years to improve water quality.

“Many New Zealanders are working hard to protect our rivers and lakes. We need a policy framework that clearly supports and encourages these efforts.”

The Commissioner’s submission has attracted national media attention. Examples include:

Radio NZ: Water proposals miss the mark – Commissioner
3 News: Water management plan ‘misses the mark’
MSN NZ: Water management plan `misses the mark’ Warning about worsening water quality