Environmentalists want Govt's waterways cleanup to be stronger, while farmers fear for their pockets

An environmentalist group says Government's plans to stop the degradation of waterways and clean up rivers and lakes still leaves  loopholes they want tightened up.

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Choose Clean Water New Zealand’s Marnie Prickett spoke to Breakfast. Source: 1 NEWS

Yesterday, the Government released to the public its Action for Healthy Waterway policy discussion documents, which include a plan to make New Zealand rivers and lakes swimmable again.

Choose Clean Water New Zealand's Marnie Prickett told TVNZ1's Breakfast today her initial reaction to the proposal was that it "holds great potential", but she had some concerns.

"Our Government have said they want to see material changes to water quality in the next five years and this document has the potential to deliver on that and set us on a path to clean healthy rivers New Zealand," she said."But there are some pitfalls.

"The Government's presented us with some options about how to do this, particularly the rules around intensive agriculture - those high polluting, high impact dairy farms that we've seen pop up over the last couple of decades.

"There's rules to reign those in, and some are strong and they would have the effect that the Government and the public expects, but some are weaker and, in fact, I think some are a little bit too close to self regulation for comfort."

Ms Prickett said if the policy lands on the stronger options she believes Kiwis would have more confidence in a move to healthier, cleaner waterways.

But she called on people to back the way to cleaner waterways during the public consultation stages.

"I think there are people out there who are looking to protect those high intensity, high impact, polluting industries that we have and I think they are going to be hyping up this stuff up over the six-weeks consultation period."

When asked about the proposed changes hurting farmers, Ms Prickett said "the best farmers" were already working within environmental limits.

"I have confidence that we have the ability and the capability, and the will now is developing, to change farming practices and make them truly sustainable and restorative of the environment rather than impacting it."

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Federated Farmers environment and water spokesman Chris Allen talked to TVNZ1’s Breakfast about his worries. Source: 1 NEWS

But also speaking on Breakfast, Federated Farmers environment and water spokesman Chris Allen said looking at the document, many rural communities up and down the country will be saying "this is going to be hard".

"These people, farmers, they just want to be heard, and make sure that they are heard, that this is going to hurt," he said. "It's going to hurt a lot more than just a little bit here and there.

"This is going to be wholesale farm changes in large parts of New Zealand."

Mr Allen agreed that the the issue needed to be addressed and said he was in support of good water quality, but added that many farmers were already implementing good changes.

"We're doing precision agriculture, all these things come at huge costs but they're the right things to do. But they [the proposed changes] are going to take us so far, this is a big step to the left."

The Government has proposed five years to get there and $230 million for farmers to help farmers transition.