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Smith rejects claim most rivers excluded

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/03/2017

The environment minister is rejecting claims that as many as 90 per cent of New Zealand's rivers and streams are excluded under new government water standards.

Forest & Bird says according to its data, of the 450,000 kilometres of mapped waterways across the country, only about 45,000 kilometres are covered under the government's newly proposed freshwater policy statement.

Environment Minister Nick Smith last week announced the goal was to have 90 per cent of lakes and rivers across the country safe for swimming by 2040.

But Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the swimmability standards only covered larger bodies, and the lack of coverage contradicted the government's goal.

Many of the excluded waterways were popular with local families, he said.

"While they may be too small for adults to swim in, they are frequently the safe, slow rivers and streams that are popular with families and children to explore and play in."

He said those rivers and streams not covered under the standards, would have to have their E coli limits set by regional councils, and some may be left unmanaged.

But Dr Smith says regional councils will still be required to improve the quality of all smaller waterways, even if they aren't specifically covered under the same specific guidance.

"The national policy statement requirements on regionals councils to improve water quality applies to every stream, every lake, every water course across the country," he told Radio NZ.

A spokeswoman for the minister said the swimmability targets could not be applied to waterways too shallow for swimming and it would not be economically feasible to monitor every stream.

The quality of smaller streams would also have to improve because they fed into the larger bodies, she said.

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