Letters Reveal Government Concerns About Water

Published: Fri 22 Feb 2002 05:19 PM
Ministerial Letters Reveal Government Concerns About Water
February 22, 2002 - Wellington
Ministerial letters reveal government concerns about water
Letters from the Minister of Conservation and the Minister for the Environment reveal central government concerns about the state of New Zealand's waterways and their management. The letters sound a clear warning to regional and unitary councils about their failure to protect New Zealand's rivers, lakes and streams says Forest and Bird.
"The Government acknowledges that the health of our rivers and streams has declined over the last ten years," says Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager. "This decline is extremely disappointing - we are going backwards. Regional Government needs to wake up to its responsibilities."
Many lowland streams, lakes and rivers are now unsuitable for swimming and habitat for fish is getting worse. "The condition of waterways is the No. 1 environmental issue for New Zealanders. This is not surprising - the public has correctly picked that this is an area where the environment is deteriorating."
The letter from the Minister for the Environment reveals concerns about the performance of regional government. In the letter the Minister Marian Hobbs stated "Some [regional councils] need to significantly lift their performance in regional water planning."
"Environment Canterbury is a classic example of a council that needs to lift its game," says Mr Pyle. "Environment Canterbury has not yet developed an effective water planning framework for the region. The rampant expansion of dairying and proposals for major irrigation schemes, such as the Central Plains Water Scheme, are taking place in a planning vacuum."
"Whilst councils do need to lift their game, it is time that central Government showed stronger leadership", says Mr Pyle. "Ultimately the Minister for the Environment is responsible for the state of our rivers, lakes and streams. It is not good enough for the Minister to just point the finger at councils."
"The government should also consider establishing a system for reviewing the environmental performance of local government. Councils that fail to safeguard the environment or meet their obligations should be identified and helped," Mr Pyle says.
Contact: Eric Pyle, Conservation Manager Tel. 04 385 7374 (work), 025 227 8420, for a national perspective; Geoff Keey, Researcher, Work: (03) 366 6317 Home: (03) 365 9455.

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