Forest & Bird says freshwater recommendations need to become policy to be truly effective

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) Dr Jan Wright today released her report on water quality which calls for further steps to safeguard New Zealand’s fresh water.

Forest & Bird agrees with the report’s findings and says the recommendations need to be adopted by the government and incorporated into the National Policy Statement (NPS) to be truly effective.

Dr Wright’s report is an examination of the Government’s NPS – the most important policy for managing freshwater – and which directs regional councils in their freshwater management.

Dr Wright notes that New Zealand has a “long way to go” to address poor and deteriorating water quality across the country.

Forest & Bird Conservation Manager Amelia Geary says this is something that Forest & Bird has been advocating strongly for- to have clear bottom lines for freshwater management that are not ambiguous and not open to interpretation.

“It’s great to have an independent scientist come to the same conclusion that we’ve come to by identifying obvious loopholes and ambiguities in the current policy statement.”

Ms Geary says the PCE report urges immediate action, and recognises that we don’t have the luxury to wait until 2025 (which is the current deadline for implementing the 2014 NPS) as some catchments are already highly polluted to the point where we can’t eat shellfish or even swim in them safely.

“Clearer bottom lines would provide more certainty for the public as well as developers and farmers when considering any land use changes that would affect freshwater. The current NPS leaves out critical measuring tools – such as the macroinvertebrate community index – which is a meaningful way to measure ecosystem health. Dr Wright is recommending that this measure be included in the NPS.”

The report also recommends including estuaries. “Estuaries are critical environments for many species including spoonbills, wrybills, godwits and native flounder,” says Ms Geary “and estuaries should absolutely have the same level of management as any other freshwater body”.