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Firm action needed over waterways: Labour

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/04/2017

Labour leader Andrew Little says firm action is needed to commit to water quality standards, after a report was released about NZ's fresh water.

The report, released on Wednesday, shows Kiwis have important choices to make over the management of their fresh water.

Author of the report, the prime minister's chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, said major changes will be needed and no single strategy will be enough.

But Mr Little says the problem can be fixed by address farming practices.

"The disturbing thing about Dr Gluckman's report is that he is now saying some rivers may take up to 50 years to clean up, and others may never get back to the pristine state that they were once in.''

But a plan needs to put in place straight away, Mr Little said.

"Some of it will take some years to clean up but we are serious about doing that."

Environment Minister, Nick Smith, told RNZ: "This isn't a problem that's just arisen yesterday, it's an issue that's risen over many decades and equally will take that sort of length to get the water quality back."

The single most important important thing is to fence stock out of streams, and for the first time in New Zealand history there are national regulations in place, Mr Smith said.

But the Greens say the government's solutions are just "a band aid on a broken leg", however.

"The Government's weak strategy for cleaning up fresh water won't undo years of abuse," water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said.

Fencing animals out of waterways won't address the real issue, she said, which is that there are too many cows crammed in paddocks.

Farmers are part of the problem, but are by no means the whole problem, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

"Where there are problems all sectors of society, including farmers, are culpable and all sectors of society need to be part of the solutions.

"Eighty per cent of New Zealand's waterways have stable or improving water quality.... all sectors, including urban communities with sewage and stormwater challenges, need to be given time to implement changes that are sensible, practical and affordable."

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