Wa­ter­ways should be swimmable

The Tribune (NZ) - - ENVIRONMENT - PAUL BOYCE, CHOOSE CLEAN WA­TER CAM­PAIGN For­est & Bird are host­ing the Choose Clean Wa­ter team next Tues­day, March 8 at 7.30pm in City Li­brary, Ge­orge St. All are wel­come.

Wa­ter qual­ity in New Zealand has reached cri­sis point. Fresh­wa­ter qual­ity has been in steady de­cline over re­cent decades and in re­sponse, com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try are call­ing for au­thor­i­ties to do more.

The sta­tis­tics speak for them­selves: 90 per cent of our wetlands are gone; 74 per cent of our na­tive fresh­wa­ter fish and in­ver­te­brate species are threat­ened – the high­est per­cent­age in the world; and al­most two thirds of mon­i­tored rivers have been graded un­safe for swim­ming.

Our lo­cal river, the Manawatu, made head­lines in 2009 as the most pol­luted river in the western world, af­ter mea­sure­ments showed ex­treme oxy­gen level fluc­tu­a­tions.

Adding to the pres­sure on fresh­wa­ter is the in­ten­tion to set the na­tional stan­dard for wa­ter qual­ity at ‘‘wade­able’’ through leg­is­la­tion called the Na­tional Ob­jec­tives Frame­work. For bac­te­ria like E.coli (in­di­cat­ing fae­cal con­tam­i­na­tion), this stan­dard trans­lates to a mod­er­ate risk of in­fec­tion from wad­ing or boat­ing on a river or lake.

The Choose Clean Wa­ter Cam­paign has set about rais­ing the min­i­mum stan­dard for fresh­wa­ter in lakes, rivers, streams, ground­wa­ter, wetlands and es­tu­ar­ies to swimmable.

The cam­paign be­gan with five young Ki­wis want­ing to tour the coun­try and doc­u­ment the per­sonal sto­ries of the sel­dom told hu­man cost of los­ing our fresh­wa­ter ecosys­tems [see The Tribune, Jan­uary 13, 2016].

The tour trav­elled through­out the coun­try for a month mak­ing short films of New Zealan­ders and their re­la­tion­ship with their lo­cal wa­ter­ways, and col­lect­ing sig­na­tures for a pe­ti­tion to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the qual­ity of our fresh­wa­ter.

Since be­gin­ning the tour, the cam­paign has been fully en­dorsed and fi­nan­cially sup­ported by the Tourism Ex­port Coun­cil. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing pe­ti­tion has so far re­ceived close to 9,000 sig­na­tures.

PHOTO: MIRIAMA (MARNIE) PRICK­ETT/ SUP­PLIED

Drink­able – Wilkies Pools in Eg­mont Na­tional Park are an ex­am­ple of pris­tine fresh­wa­ter. The in­ten­tion is to re­duce the ‘‘ac­cept­able’’ stan­dard for New Zealand rivers to ‘wade­able’.

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