Choose clean water before it’s too late
New Zealanders are witnessing the greatest theft in our country’s history. Our freshwater is being taken away from us.
While one generation watches as progress and growth is unashamedly used to justify the exploitation of our waterways, another waits to inherit toxic freshwater that is off limits to humans and wildlife.
This crisis has been growing for decades and when we’re told that nothing can be done or that there is no problem, we become jaded.
Now we have the opportunity to save one of our most treasured pastimes – the ability to swim in clean rivers, lakes and streams.
A discussion document on freshwater is expected to be released sometime in February and could lead to changes in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS) and the National Objectives Framework (NOF).
The NPS sets out a big picture policy for freshwater management in New Zealand and the NOF outlines the standards our waterways should meet. This document spawned what has become known as ‘wadeable’ standards, which are what stand in the way of swimmable freshwater.
For a parameter like E. coli, wadeable translates to “a moderate risk of infection from wading or boating”. With wadeable standards, we sit on the cusp of our waterways being destroyed.
Thankfully, New Zealand is standing up and saying enough is enough. After many years of public outcry, we have an opportunity to put strong protection for freshwater in place before the law becomes set in stone.
Utilising the timing of the NOF review, one group has decided to tell the story of New Zealand’s lost water and lead a surge to get genuine protection for our waterways.
The Choose Clean Water Tour is a student-led initiative touring the country to tell the stories of New Zealanders, the waterways they have lost and how this has affected their lives. The group is making short films about the experience of New Zealanders who have been betrayed by weak freshwater protections and how this has split communities, destroyed businesses, and drained the memories of kiwi families.
The young campaigners have had the privilege of meeting the many vocal Kiwis that have stood against the tide of freshwater degradation. They have made 16 videos, from Taupo to Te Anau, Maketu to Marlborough and these have been viewed over 50,000 times. They include people from all walks of life – mothers, fathers, farmers, trout fishermen, children, families, communities who are heart-broken from watching New Zealand’s water being trashed. They even interviewed New Zealand poet laureate Brian Turner.
Finishing in Waitangi on the 6th of February, the group is continuing to make headlines.
Group spokesperson and Forest & Bird Manawatu Branch advocacy coordinator Paul Boyce explained that “everywhere we go, people are calling for change. They are tired of being ignored and shrugged off. This is their water. We can’t keep up with how many people want to share their story with us.”
The group will present a petition to parliament in March asking the House of Representatives to set “swimmable (primary contact)” as the minimum standard for freshwater in lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, wetlands and estuaries, and establish that the priority for New Zealand’s freshwater legislation is the health of people, wildlife, and the environment. They have already collected over 5000 signatures and are aiming for 10,000.
The time for change has come. For too long we have watched our waterways be abused and used as commodities available to a select few. Join the Choose Clean Water group and join the movement to demand the Government change how we protect and value our freshwater environment.
Add your name to the petition and help the Choose Clean Water team get 10,000 signaturesSign Now