‘Com­plete fail­ure’ by re­gional coun­cils

The Northland Age - - Local News -

Fish & Game has de­scribed the Environmen­t Aotearoa 2019 re­port as re­veal­ing how re­gional coun­cils had “com­pletely failed” to pro­tect the environmen­t.

“Re­gional coun­cils, un­der the RMA, have a le­gal obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the environmen­t for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, and this re­port shows they have failed to do that,” CEO Martin Tay­lor said.

The re­port con­firmed that wa­ter qual­ity was poor, and get­ting worse in most parts of the coun­try, he said. For ex­am­ple, only 63 of more than 3820 lakes big­ger than one hectare were be­ing mon­i­tored, and 35 per cent did not meet reg­u­la­tory bottom line.

“Some of the worst wa­ter qual­ity is­sues can be found in Manawatu¯-Wan­ganui, Can­ter­bury, Otago and South­land, where all of these re­gional coun­cils have promoted and pro­tected agri­cul­tural in­ter­ests over the environmen­t for decades,” Mr Tay­lor said. “At a ba­sic level the re­port con­firms that if you have too much ir­ri­ga­tion, too much fer­tiliser and too many cows, you de­stroy wa­ter qual­ity in rivers, lakes and ground wa­ter.”

The re­port also showed why the gov­ern­ment had a man­date to stop fur­ther de­cline in wa­ter qual­ity by reg­u­lat­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally un­sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural prac­tices.

“We are look­ing for­ward to the gov­ern­ment de­liv­er­ing on their Es­sen­tial Fresh­wa­ter pro­gramme, aimed at stop­ping fur­ther degra­da­tion in wa­ter qual­ity and to re­verse past dam­age,” he said, not­ing that 82 per cent of New Zealan­ders were ex­tremely or very con­cerned about wa­ter qual­ity ac­cord­ing to a na­tion­wide Col­mar-Brun­ton poll in De­cem­ber. The re­port states that:

Be­tween 2008-2017, 55 pert cent of mon­i­tored sites had wors­en­ing ni­trate-ni­tro­gen lev­els and 25 per cent wors­en­ing dis­solved re­ac­tive phos­pho­rus.

Be­tween 2001-2016, 214 wet­lands cov­er­ing 1250ha were lost, and 746 more de­creased in size.

Fail­ure to ad­dress ero­sion is cost­ing $250-$300 mil­lion per year in re­duced soil pro­duc­tiv­ity.

De­spite the ero­sion prob­lem there is lit­tle ac­tual mon­i­tor­ing, just mod­els.

Most of Can­ter­bury, parts of Waikato and South­land have ni­trate-ni­tro­gen lev­els ex­ceed­ing that re­quired for ecosys­tem health.

Seventy-one per cent of ground­wa­ter sites (2012-2014) did not meet drink­ing wa­ter stan­dards for E coli at least once. Thirty per cent ex­ceeded the cri­te­ria more than five times over those two years.

More than five bil­lion cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter is con­sented for ir­ri­ga­tion each year. Dairy farm­ing ac­counts for 59 per cent of agri­cul­tural wa­ter takes.

In Can­ter­bury, more wa­ter is con­sented for tak­ing than is avail­able in the re­gion’s rivers.

Key facts

Red marks North­land’s 249,776ha of wet­land that re­mained in 2013, from an orig­i­nal area of 2,221,304ha.

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