Dis­cus­sion wanted on wa­ter

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Pro­posed na­tional wa­ter stan­dards are be­ing opened up for de­bate by the Gov­ern­ment. En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Amy Adams and Pri­mary In­dus­tries Min­is­ter Nathan Guy re­leased pro­pos­als for im­prov­ing fresh­wa­ter man­age­ment, in­clud­ing the stan­dards, last week.

Ms Adams said a re­li­able sup­ply of healthy wa­ter was one of the most im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic is­sues New Zealan­ders faced.

The fresh­wa­ter re­form frame­work was de­signed to give com­mu­ni­ties more tools and guid­ance so they could make bet­ter de­ci­sions on man­ag­ing wa­ter, she said.

‘‘It says this is what we know now, so let us stop ar­gu­ing about it and get on with find­ing a bet­ter way of man­ag­ing this valu­able re­source for the fu­ture,’’ she said.

Mr Guy said man­ag­ing New Zealand’s most im­por­tant re­source would work only if ev­ery­one worked to­gether.

Pub­lic feed­back is be­ing sought on pro­posed amend­ments to the Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment for Fresh­wa­ter Man­age­ment.

A dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment sets out a frame­work to:

Sup­port com­mu­ni­ties set­ting fresh­wa­ter ob­jec­tives.

Give more weight to Maori val­ues for fresh wa­ter.

Set ecosys­tem and hu­man health as com­pul­sory val­ues in re­gional plans.

Re­quire coun­cils to ac­count for all wa­ter takes and con­tam­i­nant dis­charges.

Set na­tional bot­tom lines for ecosys­tem and hu­man health that ap­ply al­most ev­ery­where.

Al­low for some ex­cep­tions to bot­tom lines where poor wa­ter qual­ity is from a his­tor­i­cal, struc­tural (dam) or nat­u­ral source such as a bird colony.

More than 60 fresh­wa­ter sci­en­tists have put num­bers on the bot­tom lines for fresh­wa­ter. Th­ese thresh­olds have been tested with some wa­ter users to make sure they are prac­ti­cal.

Among other obli­ga­tions, coun­cils will be re­quired to iden­tify lev­els of E. coli, pe­ri­phy­ton, ni­trate, am­mo­nia and dis­solved oxy­gen as well as sed­i­ment, heavy met­als, pH, tem­per­a­ture, and in­sect and fish life.

Ms Adams said coun­cils would still have to main­tain or im­prove wa­ter qual­ity as a min­i­mum but a safety net was pro­posed for na­tional bot­tom lines for ecosys­tem and hu­man health.

Mr Guy said the Gov­ern­ment ex­pected peo­ple to de­bate the bot­tom lines.

‘‘If we can get agree­ment now, there will be less ar­gu­ing and lit­i­ga­tion over re­gional plans and re­source con­sent ap­pli­ca­tions.

‘‘It will give peo­ple more cer­tainty about what is al­lowed and what is not, and all this will save time and money,’’ he said.

Farm­ers have wel­comed the sci­ence and the com­mu­nity-based ap­proach of the re­forms.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers en­vi­ron­ment spokesman Ian Macken­zie said the pro­pos­als pre­sented a sig­nif­i­cant change in how com­mu­ni­ties would plan for wa­ter.

He said the frame­work pro­vided an ac­count­ing sys­tem for mea­sur­ing wa­ter quan­tity and qual­ity, and would re­duce much of the sub­jec­tive emo­tion in wa­ter talks.

Set­ting stan­dards sci­en­tif­i­cally, cul­tur­ally and eco­nom­i­cally for the first time would not be easy and would need some sac­ri­fice from agri­cul­ture, and also ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties as some of the most pol­luted wa­ter­ways were in towns and cities, he said.

‘‘The thing about the pro­posed amend­ments is that it in­tro­duces the con­cept of time. Many is­sues may have taken decades to build and may take decades to re­solve.

‘‘I can con­fi­dently say New Zealand’s pri­mary in­dus­tries are up for this chal­lenge.’’

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