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National says Greens’ clean river policy is twisting facts in pursuit of anti-jobs agenda

The government has come out against the Greens’ latest policy saying it’s the latest step in their anti-job, anti-growth, stop everything manifesto.

Environmental Minister Amy Adams has criticised the Greens’ policy to ensure New Zealand’s rivers are clean enough to swim in, saying it’s costly and impractical.

“Approaching improvement through blanket bans and requirements for every drainage ditch across New Zealand to be maintained at a swimming pool standard just shows that the Greens have once again confirmed they are the anti-growth Party.”

She says they clearly haven’t thought through the consequences.

“The Greens need to explain where they will find the billions of dollars of costs and lost revenue it could take to make every single centimetre of New Zealand’s 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams suitable for swimming,” she says.

The Greens’ policy, announced over the weekend, is the first in a series of announcements to be made over the course of the election campaign in which they will outline the specifics of how they will clean up New Zealand’s rivers and protect the beaches.

This announcement includes establishing a protected rivers network, a set of robust standards which ensure rivers are clean enough for swimming and keeping New Zealand’s wild rivers wild by not building any new dams on them.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says New Zealand is now at “crisis point” but the Greens have a credible plan to make the countries rivers clean again.

"Latest figures show that nearly two-thirds of our monitored river sites are too polluted for swimming, one-third of our lakes are unhealthy and three quarters of our native freshwater fish are at risk of extinction.

"Successive Governments have overseen the significant deterioration in our water quality.

“National has established water rules that are so weak they would allow some of our rivers to have more nitrogen pollution than the famously degraded Yangtze River in China.”

Mr Adams says this is once again Mr Norman is attempting to mislead New Zealanders by comparing nitrogen settings in the new National Freshwater Standards to the Yangtze river.

She says the government’s approach to raising freshwater standards is much more pragmatic.

“Our approach will ensure that for the first time New Zealand’s rivers and lakes will have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem and human health.

“Rather than stopping water use, National’s plan is about ensuring it is used responsibly in a way that provides for the needs of our people now, and into the future.”

What do you think? Do you think 'rivers clean enough to swim in' is a realistic target for New Zealand? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

Jason Walls is an AUT journalism student

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Comments and questions

Amy maybe you have got it wrong

The majority of Kiwi's aren't dairy farmers or farmers and do care about the quality of our waterways - whether the polluter is a dairy farmer or a meat works they need to be responsible for putting it right.

The diary sector has told everyone over the years that their activity is safe and now when it is proven that they are the main polluters they say it is simply too expensive to revert the rivers back in to a safe swimming state - like they used to be.

Well tough luck - the Govt should be compelling them to 'put things right'
There shouldn't even be any further discussion.

The farmers are just too greedy - takers, actually bludgers - no different to long term beneficiaries really.

So Amy maybe get out of cuckoo land and do the job you were voted in to do. As Minister you are charged with making decisions - sometimes hard decisions ' for the better good"

Go kick everyone out of Auckland (and a number of other cities) while you are at it. Sewerage overflows when it rains, untreated runoff from roads etc clearly show it needs destocking until their infrastructure is up to the job and the population no longer adversely impacts the environment. Bugger the economic costs, bludging city ratepayers need to front up to the free ride they have had at the expense of the environment.

Sorry but which cities pollute the which rivers

Christchurch - the Avon? Probably not s no one lives near the Avon now - and the CBD is not functioning

Dunedin ??

Just one example that has been going on for 20 years.
There are plenty more.
You must be wilfully blind to be unaware, there was a story this year on Maori TV about Gisborne dumping raw sewage to the rivers (flowing straight to the sea) at least 3 times a year, they have a ten year plan to reduce it to a maximum of twice a year. Beaches get closed for 5 days each time.

Who watches Maori TV?

You quote a Gisborne river having raw sewage dumped 3 times a year and beaches closing 5 days each time - that's 15 days a year

Our polluted rivers are technically closed 365 days a year due to the pollution of our dairy farms.

So you are totally happy with all those quick examples, raw sewage running through back yards in Auckland for 20 years? What planet are you on?

I don't expect the good Doctor is happy with it. But your argument is fallacious. How is it that urban pollution justifies rural pollution? Clean both up for goodness sake. Don't be so dense.

It does not justify the actions of farmers in the past, however farmers are actually far more active in this area at the moment in making improvement than the councils and ratepayers who want to string them up and put them out of business. Hold yourself to the same standards and timeframes you want others held to, but no instead ratepayers object if farmers cry poor but do the exact same thing themselves.

TheDoctor's comments about farmers suggest that once more he has forgotten to take his pills
One thing farmers are not is bludgers just darn hard workers who deserve every penny they earn and I am pleased that I do not have to do their work
The city elite have no understanding of farming beyond pouring milk put of a bottle and at times show little commonsense

'At times show little commonsense' ; correction.... most times show little commonsense or comprehension where matters farming and rural are concerned.

"The farmers are just too greedy - takers, actually bludgers - no different to long term beneficiaries really."

I think what the Doctor is getting at here is that dairy farmers are:
(1) not paying for water they use and (2) not paying for the pollution they cause. If they were paying for both, then we would - in all probability - not have dairy farming on unsuitable thin soils.

I agree both are difficult to implement: (1) is politically difficult because it implies everyone should pay for water (as indeed they should) and (2) is difficult to quantify and so charge for in a fair and transparent manner. That these issues are difficult is, however, no excuse because if not implemented, our water quality will continue to decline. And I don't think anyone, even Amy Adams, really wants that.

Come to the waikato. Drink the household tap water...its uttrrlyy disgusting...thiz town cares more about a cowbell than a river