The Government has today announced its plan to clean up the country's rivers and lakes "within a generation".
The plan sets out a proposed overhaul to the country’s freshwater management, impacting wastewater discharge, the rules around farming practices and swimming in the summer.
It proposes higher standards for swimming in summer, protecting streams and wetlands, setting minimum standards for wastewater discharges and overflows and “tightly” restricting further farming intensification of land until regions have freshwater management plans.
The plan sets out to speed up changes to the Resources Management Act (RMA), protect threatened indigenous freshwater species and to push renewable energy targets by providing exemptions for major hydro-electric schemes.
The aim of the proposals is to reduce soil loss and pollution, protect ecosystems, drinking water sources and peoples' health and to improve farming practices.
In a statement by Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, they say they plan to "stop the degradation of our waterways and clean up our rivers and lakes within a generation".
Environment Minister David Parker said if plans are not put it place the state of the country’s water would “only get worse and will be more expensive to fix”.
“Our rivers, lakes and wetlands are under serious threat after years of neglect.
“We can’t go on like we are,” he said.
The plan aims to create a noticeable improvement within five years, with the goal to restore waterways “within a generation”.
The Action Plan for Healthy Waterways proposes protecting wetlands and streams, setting higher standards for swimming places, intermin controls on land intensification and improving “risky” farming practices.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said many farmers had carried out a huge amount of work to improve practices, “but the growth across agriculture has simply put more pressure on the waterways across our country”.
The discussion document states that “while there will be costs in implementing this package, there are also costs from not acting”.
It says that the country is currently facing significant costs related to issues such as restoring degraded waterways and there would be future costs from factors such as decreased productivity from soil erosion.
- Ensure all farmers and growers have a plan to manage risks to fresh water.
- Tightly restrict further intensification of land until all regions have freshwater management plans.
- Reduce nitrogen loss in catchments with high levels until all regions have freshwater management plans.
- Exclude stock from waterways.
- Apply standards for intensive winter grazing, feedlots and stock holding areas.
The Government is now asking for public feedback on the proposals, with the implementation of new rules set to come into force through Government and regional councils from June, 2020 – alongside the amendments of the RMA.
By 2025, it expects all councils to have implemented the national policy on freshwater management.