Cleaner rivers a step closer

Forest & Bird says a set of draft national standards on freshwater quality, released today, are a good first step towards bringing New Zealand’s rivers and lakes back to how New Zealanders expect them to be.

If the “National Objectives Framework” is implemented it will give local communities well-defined, nationally-applicable targets for them to agree to work towards or stay within. 

The framework has been developed following the work of the Land and Water Forum, which brought farmers, industry, iwi and conservationists together to agree on how to improve the state of the country’s lakes and rivers.

“Currently, regional councils decide their own water quality values. Inevitably, these have been disputed by different sectors all the way to the Environment Court,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“It makes real sense to get consistency and agreement, all at once at a national level, and to have nationally consistent bottom lines.

“While the National Objectives Framework is a good start, as proposed, it would benefit from some more flesh on its bones,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“An obvious omission is that there is no objective that directly relates to the health of freshwater insects, and we hope that they can be included in the national framework that is implemented. Insects provide a direct measurement of how healthy a lake or river is,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“Where there are still gaps in the regional science - which mean we can’t yet agree on a national set of numbers for particular water quality values - we should still be able to agree on some tight wording on what standards we want to see achieved. 

“Tight ’descriptive’ objectives would provide crucial guidance for regional councils to work to, while the figures are worked out,” Kevin Hackwell says.

The Ministry for the Environment will now get public feedback, through a series of regional meetings. Submissions will close in early February.