OPINION: It’s time for all hands to the pump because improvement in rural landscapes and municipal areas is worth chasing together.
“Clean water is our birthright,” says Environment Minister David Parker. “Rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook.”
The decline of at-risk catchments will be halted, says Parker. “We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”
He and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor this month released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality. It also sets out a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.
“New Zealanders value rivers and lakes… and they want central and local government, farmers and businesses to do more,” Parker said.
New rules in place by 2020 are intended to stop the degradation of freshwater quality.
The new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, and a new national environmental standard, will impose controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices; and remaining wetlands and estuaries will be better protected.
“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas,” Parker said.
“And we are amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits.
“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”
The Minister for Māori Crown Relations, Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, said Māori and the Crown are committed to Te Mana o te Wai and to “substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Māori land development”.
Parker said the Government plans to talk to leading New Zealanders who care about freshwater – environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, regional council experts and others.
“We are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”
- Act and invest in at-risk catchments, including getting busy on ‘Good Farming Practice Principles’ and planning for tree planting via the One Billion Trees programme.
- Publish a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks by, for example, better directing how to set limits on resource use, and better protecting wetlands and estuaries.
- Publish a new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.
- Amend the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents so as to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits, and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.
- Decide how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.
Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor said New Zealanders agree our natural resources must be used wisely.
“Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally sustainable, high-value economy…. This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.
“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products.”