Environment Minister is given proposal for tougher water quality standards

Environment Minister David Parker will consider tougher water quality standards which have been proposed to replace the standards National introduced last year, Radio NZ reported today.

The previous government was widely criticised for introducing standards for swimming which did not actually measure the health of lakes and rivers.

Mr Parker has been presented with the proposed National Policy Statement for freshwater management which was written by Fish and Game with input from Forest and Bird, the Environmental Defence Society and Greenpeace.

A key difference between the two sets of standards is that the proposed Freshwater National Policy Statement would account for the health of ecosystems, setting a bottom line which enables people to swim and collect food from rivers and lakes without getting sick.

Research from freshwater scientist Mike Joy was used for the proposal, which he said sets standards requiring measurements of more components of the water to give a much broader picture of what is happening in a catchment.

“What we had before was a National Policy Statement that talked all about ecosystem health, but then had no measures of ecosystem health and no requirement for meeting levels of ecosystem health,” he said.

The previous standards were introduced by former Environment Minister Nick Smith, who dismissed criticism of them as “junk science”.

But Dr Joy told Radio NZ those standards could not even achieve their own stated aims, and if the proposed measures were put in place there would be action on improving water quality.

Mr Parker declined to be interviewed on the matter, saying he had received various views on national water standards and would consider them.

But he said a report from the Land and Water Forum last week proved consensus could not be reached on different measures of water quality and the mandate now passed back to central government to tackle.

Source: Radio New Zealand