5 Jun 2016

Greens to campaign for clean rivers

9:53 pm on 5 June 2016

The Green Party has launched a water campaign to clean up rivers across the country.

Waikato River

Waikato River Photo: 123rf.com

As part of their "Swimmable Rivers" campaign, the party will visit 10 different rivers from around New Zealand and highlight what needs to be fixed.

Green's co-leader Metiria Turei told members at their Annual General Meeting in Christchurch that under National, two thirds of rivers were unsafe for swimming.

"New Zealand needs a government to back our rivers, and to stop defending polluters," she said.

"Government subsidies for damaging irrigation projects - like the Ruataniwha dam that will impact the Tukituki River - shows the government's refusal to protect water quality."

The 10 rivers are:

  • Wairua (Te Tai Tokerau/Northland)
  • Kaipātiki/Lucas Creek (Tāmaki Makarau/Auckland)
  • Waikato
  • Tarawera (Te Moana-a-Toi/Bay of Plenty)
  • Tukituki (Heretaunga/Hawke's Bay)
  • Waitare (Taranaki)
  • Ruamāhanga (Wairarapa)
  • Manawatū
  • Waikirikiri/Selwyn (Waitaha/Canterbury)
  • Mataura (Murihiku/Southland)

Ms Turei said the government's Freshwater Improvement Fund was a drop in the bucket of what was needed to make rivers safe for swimming.

Last month's Budget committed $100 million to the contestable fund to improve freshwater quality, first mooted in 2014.

The money would be spread over 10 years and would be used to support projects to clean up the country's rivers, lakes and aquifers.

"This is typical National Party, talk big, do bugger all," Ms Turei said.

"The Fund can be used for irrigation. That's right, like a cow pooing in the creek, the fund is already so fouled it can be used to further pollute the waterways."

Cattle on Waiotu River in Northland - Millan Ruka said the council had a poor track record in stopping pollution.

Cattle on Waiotu River in Northland. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

"John Key thinks that actually our rivers are in pretty good shape, and that tells me that the so-called brighter future that National promised is really only for its chosen few and that it's costing us - the rest of us - our way of life."

Ms Turei said that if elected, her party would put a moratorium on new dairy conversions, support land-based sewage solutions and put filters on storm water drains.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said he welcomed the Green Party's interest in cleaning up waterways, but that the government was already taking several initiatives to do so.

The government was consulting on new rules requiring fencing of rivers and lakes to keep stock out, he said, and implementing clean-ups of the Waikato and Manawatū Rivers.

But he said he disagreed with the Green proposal of a nationwide moratorium on dairy conversion as that would punish regions where a moratorium was unnecessary.

Dr Smith said that while he could not disagree with the Green Party campaign, the government had spent $115 million in the past seven years on river and lake cleanups, five times what the previous government spent.

He also opposed a ban on new water stirage and irrigation schemes, saying it was scientifically wrong to say such schemes caused a decline in water quality.

Dr Smith said the government's approach to water quality was science-based and committed to solutions which would minimise the adverse impact on jobs and the economy.

Labour's new best friend

Yesterday Andrew Little became the first Labour leader to speak at a Green Party AGM.

He said the two parties have to prove they are a credible alternative to the National-led government, after having signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together.

The Green Party said if it was elected to government with Labour, it would put a moratorium on new dairy conversions, support land based sewage solutions and put filters on storm water drains.

It said it would also put a price on commercial use of water.