Clean water plan must take a pragmatic approach

27 Feb 2017

 Clean Water Header

Last week the Government announced its plans to make 90% of our rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040.

There was the stick (new stock exclusion regulations) and the carrot (a $100 million fund for projects improving water quality).  The Government estimates the cost of these improvements at about $2 billion, with most of this being directly funded by growers and farmers.

The new policy cleverly recognises that it is not possible to swim in rivers and lakes all the time. During floods, for example, no one sensible would try and swim in natural waterways. So it sets out a sensible way to measure whether it is safe to swim and most importantly, makes sure the public has access to this information.

It is important to note where we are today; comparing New Zealand to many countries around the world, our fresh water quality is better than most. We also have some fantastic initiatives that have cleaned up our waterways; water storage, deferment traps, and controlled use of nutrients by our commercial growers have already made a significant difference.

My point is that the key to the 2040 target being met is what growers and farmers do. What is proposed needs to be pragmatic, achievable, and cost-effective. So we are ready to work with Government in a true partnership to achieve the 90% goal.

It will not be met if Government dictates to the primary sector, and it will not be met if our cities do not take major steps to protect fresh water.

Therefore, we look forward to an increasing number of our waterways being swimmable more often.

Mike Chapman, CEO