What’s up with our water?

Forest & Bird (F&B) recently withdrew from the Land & Water Forum (LWF) after 9 years hard slog working with all sectors, including the polluters, to try to improve the ecological health of our rivers. The need is clear – our freshwater fish are in steep decline and many of our rivers are unsafe to swim in. Others to withdraw recently include Fish & Game and Federated Mountain Clubs.

Map showing quality for swimming of rivers and lakes in Waikato Region


A collaborative process such as LWF works when all parties come together and nut out solutions to improve our fresh water quality. It falls down when the government does not implement those solutions. Recently the government announced its Fresh Water proposals, which did not implement the LWF recommendations. This lack of good faith, and government solutions that are inadequate, means F&B had no alternative but to withdraw.

Specifically, the new framework

  1. allows councils to set nitrogen levels at eco-toxic levels,
  2. does not include a macroinvertebrate index of 80 as a minimum measure of stream health,
  3. changes the definition of “swimmability” by allowing rivers with more E Coli in the water to be considered swimmable,
  4. excludes 90% of NZ rivers and streams from the standards,
  5. allows much lower volumes of water in rivers,
  6. considers economic priorities over nature and health, and
  7. has a very long time frame for implementation.

My conclusion is that this government is not interested in real improvements in stream and river quality. Rather, their priority is economic growth at any cost.

Richard Hursthouse

This Government thinks you won't notice more poo in your water

Further reading

F&B letter to the government

MFE website

The Land and Water Forum

Independent information on water quality


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