1 NEWS Political Reporter
The Government has promised a $44 million injection to clean-up 1000 kilometres of toxic waterways throughout the country, but some say it will have little impact.
The environmental cash-splurge came just 24 hours before Labour's own water policy announcement today, which will include a levy on the commercial use of water.
But, Environment Minister Nick Smith says the Government’s policy announcement was not tabled just to get in ahead of Labour’s own announcement.
"My plan has been in timetable for over a month," Dr Smith said.
"I've heard opposition parties say they are going to impose a ten cents a litre charge on all water users. that would cost the dairy industry $600 billion a year - you'd wipe it out."
Green party co-leader James Shaw denies this.
"No one is proposing you apply ten cent a litre charge on all water use for all purposes all over the country," Mr Shaw says.
Prime Minister Bill English stressed the importance for the tourism industry of keeping New Zealand’s waterways clean.
"We think it's important because the quality of our water is at the heart of our international branding for tourism and for exporting," Mr English said.
However Our Land and Water scientist Ken Taylor says National's $44 million water investment is not enough.
"The scale of some of our problems is huge and it'll take a much bigger investment than that to produce meaningful change at scale," Taylor says.
In response to Labour’s proposed water levy, National say they do have a group of experts looking at water pricing, but they won’t take a plunge on making that decision until after the election.
Health has emerged as a major election issue for many Otago voters waiting for new facilities and surgery dates at Dunedin Hospital.
Many patients say they're suffering in pain because of long waiting lists and being fobbed off by the Southern District Health Board.
Kathryn McGregor, who has has been waiting 19-months for an answer from the DHB on her next surgery for a bowel condition, told 1 NEWS the board is "run by monkeys and there's too many cooks in the kitchen".
She said she is "getting fobbed off, getting mucked around, lengthy delays, told 'there's nothing wrong with you, go home'."
Another patient, Debbie Hill, who waited five years for her breast cancer surgery and now needs more said she cries and worries her cancer will spread while she waits.
It is getting harder to get care than it used to be.- David Clark, Labour's health spokesman
Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming apologised, saying they need to do better and are not meeting the required timeframe for providing surgery for some people.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the Southern DHB has had an extra quarter of a billion dollars in funding in the last decade.
"The Government's absolutely committed to putting patients first and getting the services that they need," he said.
But Labour's health spokesman, David Clark, says it's getting harder to get care than it used to be.
"The thresholds have gone up and that is because of underfunding," he said.
Work is underway on a $15 million intensive care unit at Dunedin Hospital. But a Government promise of a complete rebuild of the hospital has no start date, and the cost estimate has risen from around $300 million two years ago to nearly $1 billion.
So while southern patients continue to wait for new facilities and surgery dates, it's an issue that's likely to influence their decision come election time.