Forest & Bird backs call to give National Park status to our wild rivers

16 Aug 2012

 Forest & Bird has joined a national campaign to highlight the value of water conservation orders (WCOs) to maintain the health of our most important wild and undeveloped rivers.

Forest & Bird has long advocated for the protection of our outstanding rivers, and this campaign fi ts neatly into our own Freshwater for Life campaign.

We are highlighting the natural value of our rivers and lakes and why they need strong protection, as well as the continuing decline of water quality and the work we and others are doing to turn that decline around.

Today there are 15 WCOs throughout New Zealand, protecting rivers and lakes and in many cases the network of tributaries that feed into them. While our country’s land-based National Parks are well recognised by Kiwis, most people are unaware of the similar protection status given to some of our most special lakes and rivers.

The Resource Management Act (RMA) provides for WCOs as a means of safeguarding the outstanding recreational or ecological values of a river or lake. They are the highest level of protection that can be given to any New Zealand water body, preserving its natural, scenic and recreational values.Forest & Bird staff throughout the country are working hard to protect rivers and lakes with WCOs, for example Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere and Lake Wairarapa, as well as the Rakaia River.

Water Conservation Orders were introduced in 1981 following campaigning against plans in the 1970s to develop hydroelectric dams on almost every large river in New Zealand.

Recent reports by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright and the New Zealand Conservation Authority have highlighted the continuing decline in the quality of our rivers and lakes.

The WCO campaign is aimed at ensuring the small number of remaining wild and natural rivers and lakes are protected from growing development pressures.