Freshwater for Life Appeal

26 Sep 2011

Our sparkling lakes, rivers and waterfalls are one of the taonga of nature that define New Zealand and its reputation as a clean pure country.  We need your help to protect them.

All life depends on water and in New Zealand we have an abundance of water in most parts of the country.   It is something we have always taken for granted.  It is precious to us and to our native plants and animals.  From the eels and fish that live in it, to the insects and birds that live beside it. Native birds such as black stilts (kaki), wrybills, blue duck and New Zealand dotterels rely on rivers to feed and nest.

What’s going wrong?

Our waterways are becoming more polluted, and many of our lowland rivers are too dirty to swim in. Fertiliser chemicals and effluent from farm animals are flowing through the soil into our rivers. Too much water is being taken from rivers to irrigate farmland and crops. Rivers near our cities and suburbs are polluted by stormwater, inadequate sewerage systems and industrial discharges.

Our rivers were once edged with native trees, grasses and shrubs. These shaded the water, keeping temperatures lower in summer, and filtered out silt and any nutrients before they reached the water. The banks of most of our lowland rivers – and the hillside river catchment areas – have been cleared of native plants for agriculture. This has destroyed the natural filtering systems and has allowed huge amounts of silt to be washed into rivers and lakes.

Around 90 per cent of our wetlands have been drained already, but the remaining 10 per cent play an important role in storing excess water in times of flood and keeping water healthy by filtering out sediments, pollutants and excess nutrients.

Numbers of New Zealand’s longfin eel are rapidly declining. These eels live for up to a century, and migrate from the ocean into our rivers as tiny transparent glass eels early in life. By the time they return to the sea, the eels, or tuna in Māori, may be up to two metres long and weigh 40kg as they set out for a remarkable 5000km final journey to tropical seas near Tonga to breed and die.

Native fish numbers are plummeting. At the present rates of decline, it is estimated around two-thirds our native fish will disappear by 2050. Those who have seen their catches of whitebait dwindle over the years will be more aware of this than most of us. The prized whitebait are young native fish – the īnanga, kōaro and three types of kōkopu.

As rivers are dredged and riverbanks damaged, nesting and feeding sites for birds such as black stilts (kaki), wrybills and New Zealand dotterels are damaged.

And the water reaching the sea now pollutes our estuaries and coastal areas where many of our key fish species like snapper breed.

Forest & Bird’s work for the future

The future management of our freshwater is being decided now and nature’s voice must be heard.  We are already taken the lead in these areas:

  •  We’re working as part of a collaborative Land and Water Forum (including iwi, farmers, industry, conservation and recreation groups) to better manage our water resources.
  •  We are working cooperatively with councils, industry and farmers to establish better work practices designed to clean up our waterways, including riverside plantings, nutrient management plans and fencing off stock.
  •  We continue to advocate for the protection of our few remaining wild rivers from hydro development including taking legal action to defend the West Coast’s beautiful Mokihinui River from Meridian Energy’s plan to dam it.
  • We train regional council engineers in the Wairarapa to improve life for native birds that feed and nest along riverbeds
  •  We’re working with industry and councils in the Bay of Plenty to improve the water quality in the Kaimai Mamaku catchment.
  •  And in Te Puke, we continue the fight to protect our very rare Otawa Hochstetter’s frogs on the Raparahoehoe stream.
  • In Canterbury and South Canterbury we’re working on water management strategies and processes to better manage rivers and streams from ever increasing demands for irrigation. We’re also liaising with developers on the Rakaia and Hurunui rivers to seek better conditions to help threatened bird and fish species as well as indigenous riverside vegetation threatened by hydro dam proposals.
  • With the Department of Conservation and Genesis Energy, we are protecting whio with our involvement in the Central North Island Blue Duck Trust. And with the
  • We are campaigning to stop the commercial harvesting of longfin eels, or tuna.
  • We are taking legal action to protect West Coast wetlands.

Please support us to help nature

Will you support us in this vital job to protect our freshwater lakes and rivers?

Your donation will mean that we can continue the work to put forward nature’s interests.. We can better promote to councils, industry and the farming community the need for preservation and protection and for better and more sustainable work practices.

We will work harder to lobby Government for legislation to safeguard our nation’s natural treasures and we’ll continue to promote the cause to the general public.

Every New Zealander needs to understand the legacy they have been gifted and what they will lose if they don’t look after our inheritance.