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Green Party Member’s Bill to protect freshwater

Written By: - Date published: 7:35 am, February 27th, 2017 - 16 comments
Categories: Environment, farming, greens, water - Tags:

Press release from the Greens at their weekend conference.

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Green Party launches Member’s Bill to protect our freshwater

The Green Party has today launched a member’s bill that will keep water from underground sources, called aquifers, safe from pollution and contamination.

Co-leader James Shaw announced the move to a full house in his keynote address at the Green Party’s candidates’ conference in Upper Hutt.

“New Zealanders are hugely concerned about the state of our fresh water – whether it’s our rivers or our drinking water – and it’s going to be a big issue for voters this year,” said Mr James Shaw.

“We’re putting a stake in the ground – the Green Party is the only party that will prioritise protecting our fresh water and our drinking water from pollution and extraction. This Bill, in the name of our water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty, is an important part of our freshwater plan.

“By making the protection of groundwater quality a matter of national importance and putting stronger rules around discharges to aquifers in the Resource Management Act (RMA) as this Bill does, we’ll ensure that decision makers including Ministers and councils give greater weight to their protection in their planning and decision-making. It’s the very least our waterways deserve.

“Our aquifers – layers of water underground – have not been adequately protected and are vulnerable to pollution from land use.

“Not only do 40 percent of New Zealanders rely on drinking water that comes from aquifers ­- including Christchurch, our second largest city – but they are also critical to the health of other freshwater bodies. Aquifers feed wetlands, lowland rivers and lakes, and contribute to their flows and levels. When a river gets too low, the impact is dire for the plants and animals that rely on the river.

“Taking too much water from aquifers for private commercial uses such as irrigation and water bottling has become an issue of increasing public concern.

“In Canterbury, taking too much water from aquifers for commercial use has had a significant impact on spring-fed streams, turning swimming spots like Coe’s Ford into puddles of algae.

“Communities around New Zealand are concerned about the amount of water that is extracted from aquifers for commercial activities such as irrigation and water bottling, while being told they must boil their own drinking water because of contamination. This happened earlier this week at Te Matatini Kapa Haka championships. We shouldn’t have to worry if the water coming from our taps is safe.

“Māori already recognise the importance of our aquifers and groundwater – Ngāti Kahungunu fought their local council to protect their aquifers from pollution. It cost the iwi $100,000, which they should not have had to spend protecting water,” said Mr Shaw.

The Resource Management (Clean Groundwater) Amendment Bill is here: https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/cleaner-environment/clean-groundwater-bill

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Coverage of the Green Party conference here.

16 comments on “Green Party Member’s Bill to protect freshwater ”

  1. garibaldi 1

    I think the Greens must push this to the max. This water issue, including rivers etc, has the potential to damage National more than the housing issue. I say this because housing doesn’t affect your average Nat voter, but a concerted drive on our most important resource (water) will.

    • weka 1.1

      Ideally Labour goes hard on housing with back up from the Greens, and the Greens go hard on water with back up from Labour.

      Tricky bit is where they have policy differences esp around limits. I’m really interested to see how they manage this and the relationship during the campaign. Shaw yesterday seemed to be saying that they’re all in.

      • Jenny Kirk 1.1.1

        Its a major issue for Labour too. Unfortunately they took the 2014 policy manifesto off their website – and its not easy to access. But there is a substantial fresh water and estuaries policy from 2014 which is still current. A few details –

        Labour will:
        • ensure that all our rivers and lakes are swimmable, fishable and suitable for food gathering
        • implement a resource rental on large water takes for irrigation, and set the rental at a fair and affordable price
        • not allow privatisation of drinking water infrastructure or supply
        ensure that all our rivers and lakes are swimmable, fishable and suitable for food
        gathering
        * be vigilant about maintaining the purity and value of our freshwater aquifers
        * underpin freshwater management by strong environmental standards and nationally set bottom lines that recognise and provide for the life-supporting capacity of natural freshwater ecosystems
        * work with iwi and hapu to return wairua to rivers and waterways subjected to
        pollution and practices that have compromised the relationship iwi and hapu have traditionally had with these taonga
        *require improvements to farm practices to offset the additional environmental burden
        caused by more livestock, fertiliser and effluent
        support productive, profitable agriculture that protects ecosystem health and
        prevents pollution of freshwater – by using the latest technology, validated decision
        support tools, farm system modelling and strategy planning, and advanced effects
        mitigation
        work with farmers and the agribusiness sector to enable them to make sound
        strategic decisions about capital investment for environmental mitigations.

        [Jenny, if you are cut and pasting (or typing out), can you please included a link or reference for the sources, thanks – weka]

      • Bill 1.1.2

        T’would be nice to see them trending towards the highest common denominator. So if the Greens have a higher bar for water, do it. If Labour have a better housing policy, do it. Or if a combination of their policies gives a better outcome, do that.

        Don’t know what the chances are for that though, and am guessing the larger party will pull the policies of the smaller party to align with its own policies for the most part.

        As long as we don’t hear the tired old battle cry of how we can’t afford x, y or z

        • weka 1.1.2.1

          Fortunately the Greens are pretty good at costing out policy, although I guess that in reality all bets are off until after a coalition is formed because the neither party can pre-empt what will be needed from the budget.

          I’m guessing a combination of the policies will prevail here it’s easy for Labour to do that. Hard to see what they could have a problem with with this aquifer policy (but I haven’t read the full doc). Other policies I reckon they will resist. Hence my stance that the left need to vote Green 😉 The more Greens in parliament, the better their chances of achieving best outcomes.

  2. saveNZ 2

    Good bill from the Greens.

  3. Cinny 3

    Thanks Greens, love your work, there will be more Greens in Parliament this year.

    Thanks again for this bill, well done Catherine Delahunty

  4. This is actually a really important gap in both National and Labour’s past water policies, as farmers are currently largely on the defensive about fencing, however fencing doesn’t help with groundwater quality, which is mainly influenced by how much pee soaks into the ground, so can’t really be solved in any way but lowering the intensity of certain farming methods. (such as dairy. Although I suppose you could keep cows indoor more so that their pee doesn’t leak into the ground as much, it doesn’t seem a practical solution)

    It makes all the sense in the world and I hope Labour simply agrees to take this policy as-is without any negotiation, because tbqh it’s a win for anyone who stands behind it. The only reason not to put limits on groundwater pollution is basically if you’re in the pocket of polluting industry.

    • Jenny Kirk 4.1

      Labour knows that fencing alone is not enough, Matthew Whitehead, and suggests there be a reasonable buffer zone between fence and water – which would be planted with vegetation to absorb nutrient runoff, filter out sediment, and help stop the banks eroding into the waterways.

      • weka 4.1.1

        Even with the best riparian planting in the world, there is still the issue of vertical contamination of groundwater. The problem here is that it can take years or decades for this to show up in the aquifer, which means once the source of the pollution is removed, there will still be all the pollution still working its way down, thus a lag between stopping pollution and the water actually clearing.

        As Matthew says, the only solution to this type of pollution is lower stock rates or destocking.

      • I wasn’t questioning Labour’s credentials on the direct contamination of rivers, Jenny.

        What I was pointing out is that groundwater, while important by itself, also feeds some of our rivers, so high-density farming is actually causing rivers to be polluted even when farmers take sensible fencing precautions like the ones Labour is calling for, because the cow pee is saturating the soil, and thus contaminating the groundwater, which in turn feeds the cow pee into certain rivers without it ever visibly leaving a farmer’s property.

        I’m sure Labour will be quite willing to consider this issue as part of their water policy once we’ve changed the government together, as they have the same goals the Greens do on protecting freshwater. All I’m saying is that this is part of the problem that actually hasn’t been talked about until this member’s bill, and it’s good to see the Greens actually locking down more causes of freshwater contamination than just the obvious ones.

    • weka 4.2

      “Although I suppose you could keep cows indoor more so that their pee doesn’t leak into the ground as much, it doesn’t seem a practical solution”

      Unfortunately this push is already happening for this and includes the framing that it’s better for the environment. I hope the animal welfare people step up on this strongly.

  5. Michael 5

    Delahunty’s Bill is good. Will Labour support it or not?

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