Fish & Game NZ says it’s encouraging that Kiwis are increasingly aware of the water quality woes in this country but addressing the cause of the problem is long overdue.
That’s the view of Fish & Game NZ chief executive Bryce Johnson in commenting on the latest two-yearly Lincoln University research that finds water pollution is rated by New Zealanders as the most important environmental issue facing the country.
The study also finds that Kiwis want “high quality water and value fresh water for its intrinsic, environmental and recreational values”, and conserving in-stream values is rated more highly than development.
“Clearly there’s a huge gap between what the New Zealand public expects and what we’re getting in terms of actual management of the resource,” says Mr Johnson.
“Only two days ago the Auditor General released a report stating not enough is being done to prevent intensive agriculture polluting our waterways. And this came just days after an OECD economist warned us that the dairy boom literally left New Zealand facing a ‘time bomb’ on water quality.”
Mr Johnson says the Lincoln University research and the increasing public awareness of the water quality issue shows New Zealanders are acutely aware of the crisis, they’re concerned about it, they understand the cause of the problem and they want something done about it.
“It’s now very clear that New Zealanders don’t want any more pollution, they want clean and safe water for recreation, and they want regulatory measures to achieve that. And, as the report states, Kiwis don’t want to trade off environmental protection for economic growth.
“So why then is the public continually being fobbed off by the primary sector, local and central government who insist that voluntary initiatives will solve the problem? It’s blindingly obvious that all the ‘talking around the edges’, the Clean Streams Accord and the like, is failing the nation and the public on water quality.”
The dairy industry needs to demonstrate to the public that it is taking responsibility for its adverse environmental effects and is dealing to its own bad performers, says Mr Johnson.
“New Zealand taxpayers and regional council ratepayers are bearing an unreasonable cost burden – they should not have to pay to cause the agricultural sector to be environmentally responsible.
“The Lincoln report should be essential reading for the board members of the big primary industry companies. If they want a public licence to operate they need to be good corporate citizens matching the expectations of New Zealanders.
“The lever to do this is through their contractual arrangements with their suppliers, which would internalise the costs and reduce the burden on taxpayers and ratepayers.”