Last chance saloon for healthy freshwater?

Hurunui River, photo by Chris Todd

Hurunui River, photo by Chris Todd

Healthy lakes and rivers are surely something that virtually every New Zealander cares about.

New Zealanders use freshwater in many ways… for instance as a source of kai, to irrigate a crop, to turn the turbines of a power station, or to partake in their favourite sport.

As a result, it’s not easy to get agreement on how best to both use and protect New Zealand’s freshwater systems.

But an almost unanimous agreement has been reached, at the long-running Land and Water Forum, about how to do just this.

The forum was made up of conservation groups, scientists, farming and power interests, iwi, the fishing fraternity, and others. Forest & Bird was amongst them. The forum, an independent body, was asked by the Government to provide a common view on the right way to manage New Zealand’s freshwater systems.

While there was a lot of give and take during negotiations, there was widespread acceptance from the farming groups that their best environmental performers are often their best economic performers. This laid much of the groundwork for the solutions the forum has come up with.

The forum’s third and final report was released on November the 15th. It recommends integrated decision-making in water catchments, improved water quality management, and clearer rights around taking water within set limits.

The latest report represents three years of hard work. If the Government accepts the forum’s findings, it will take years still for all the recommendations to take effect.

Therefore the Government must not let this once-in-a-generation opportunity slip by. If it does, its legacy will be one of dry rivers, species extinction, the loss of culturally significant waterways, business failures, and an end to a way of life enjoyed by generations of New Zealanders.

The forum’s report can be read in full here: www.landandwater.org.nz

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2 Comments

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  1. October 13, 2013 3:18 am
    Rick says

    Water is more valuable than gold and oil in 21st century.

  2. November 10, 2013 9:23 am
    Grant says

    I haven’t read the government draft policy on water, released on 8 November, but I get the impression it is weighted towards water consumption and hence economic growth.

    If the current government was truly concerned about water resources, it wouldn’t be bankrolling irrigation schemes with $400 million in taxpayer funds. It would instead put a moratorium on water takes until the policy was settled.

    The other aspect is whether dairy farmers joined the LWF with the bona fide intention to put community interests before their own. Recent dairy farm pollution offending in Waikato and Taranaki makes me doubt this. As Sam Mahon has pointed out, we have a nation of water thieves.

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