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Urgent action needed on rivers: Labour

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/04/2017

Urgent action is needed to clean up New Zealand rivers, Labour's environment spokesperson says.

A new national report from the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ about the state of fresh water shows New Zealand's rivers and lakes are under increasing pressure.

"This report is yet more evidence that many of New Zealand's rivers and lakes are in a bad way. Dairy cow numbers have increased by a million since National took office and now many New Zealanders can't swim in their local river," Labour's Environment spokesperson David Parker says.

"Just because farmers were allowed to pollute last year doesn't mean they should pollute this year or the next."

Our Fresh Water 2017, released on Thursday, measures the quality of waterways; water quantity and flows and biodiversity in rivers and lakes.

Key findings from the report include:

* Nitrogen levels are getting worse at 55 per cent and better at 28 per cent of monitored river sites across New Zealand

* Phosphorus levels are getting better at 42 per cent and worse at 25 per cent of monitored river sites across New Zealand

* Of the 39 native fish species reported on, 72 per cent are either threatened with or at risk of extinction

* E.coli levels are 22 times higher in urban areas and 9.5 times higher in pastoral rivers compared with rivers in native forest areas

* 51 per cent of water allocated for consumptive use is for irrigation, and 65 per cent of that is allocated to Canterbury.

Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said land use clearly affected the state of fresh water.

"This report confirms our urban waterways are the most polluted but we are seeing more declining trends in pastoral areas and it's important we do something about it now and continue to track any progress," she said.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the report confirmed the direction of the government's reforms for improving the management of fresh water.

"The report highlights that New Zealand's fresh water challenges vary significantly across the country and that the problems have arisen due to agricultural and urban development over many decades," he said.

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