Forest & Bird welcomes essence of freshwater reform

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird welcomes most of the government’s freshwater reform proposals announced today.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell said the proposals generally follow the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum, on which he represented Forest & Bird. The forum reported to the government late last year.

For the most part, the government has treated the Land and Water Forum’s work as a package, and we are pleased that New Zealand’s waterways will benefit,” Kevin Hackwell said. 

Forest & Bird is surprised that the proposed reforms have failed to pick up the Land and Water Forum’s important recommendations on how to deal with our waterways most at risk from pollution. “These are the rivers and lakes that are most under pressure,” Kevin Hackwell said.

“Similar Land and Water Forum recommendations about how to deal with catchments approaching or exceeding water take limits have been adopted. This makes it even more curious that the government has not adopted the similar suite of recommendations about protecting water quality where limits on pollution discharges are approached or exceeded.” 

Forest & Bird is also concerned about some government proposals that could significantly weaken how we protect our most outstanding waterways, which are currently protected by Water Conservation Orders.

Water Conservation Orders are the freshwater equivalents of national parks. Some of our rivers and lakes are so nationally significant that they deserve protection for generations to come,” Kevin Hackwell said.

The Land and Water Forum did not recommend these changes to Water Conservation Orders. “In fact the forum suggested changes to strengthen Water Conservation Orders by ensuring that nearby land use does not harm the values – often water quality – the orders protect,” Kevin Hackwell said.

“Like our national parks, the rivers and lakes protected by Water Conservation Orders not only protect the quality of habitat for animals but they often provide significant economic benefit through tourism, recreation and commercial fishing.”

Kevin Hackwell said the proposed changes to Water Conservation Orders have been put forward with no analysis of the issues they are meant to be addressing or any consideration of the benefits or challenges that the proposed changes would create. “It looks like this proposal has been a last-minute thought by the government to reduce the protection of our most nationally significant water bodies.”

Forest & Bird applauds key proposed reforms to improve the efficiency of water use. “This is crucial to our ability to deal with droughts and the impact of climate change. Greater efficiency will allow others to make use of water,” Kevin Hackwell said.

We hope to see good management practice toolkits developed by all sectors to help water users meet the regulations.”

Forest & Bird hopes the government will address the issues of concern in the best interests of our waterways following the public consultation process, which runs until April 8.

Contact: Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell, 021 227 8420