Government Proposals Will Worsen NZ’s freshwater crisis

Special report

In December 2023, fifty-one (51) freshwater experts, along with national and regional leaders on freshwater issues and restoration, published an open letter to the newly elected Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and his Cabinet Ministers urging the new Government to retain New Zealand’s national freshwater policy (National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 – NPS-FM 2020), which the country’s regional councils are in the process of implementing. 
The freshwater experts and leaders warned that the new Government’s proposal to replace the NPS-FM 2020, along with other proposals, will undoubtedly lead to the country’s waterways’ continued decline. 
The letter was headed “Don’t take freshwater policy backwards,” and opened, “New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and aquifers are in a dire state. If you proceed with your proposals to undo the country’s freshwater policy, they will only get worse”.
Successive New Zealand Governments have failed to protect the country’s freshwater said the letter. 
“There is ample evidence now of a nationwide freshwater crisis that will be worsened by the effects of climate change. New Zealand (NZ) has witnessed the dramatic loss of its freshwater biodiversity , worsening water quality, as well as increasing risks to people’s health, including the safety of drinking water.
The rapid intensification of the country’s agricultural sector, particularly dairy farming, in recent decades has contributed significantly to this decline. Forestry and horticulture also contribute to pressure on the health of waterways as well as insensitive urban development and chronic underfunding of storm and wastewater systems also jeopardising the health of waterways.
Given the severity and complexity of NZ’s freshwater crisis and the fundamental value of water to life (flora and fauna, human health, economy, etc.), waterways need central government-level intervention and oversight, strong legal protection, and political leadership. 


Dairy farming has intensified under both the Key and Ardern governments

However, the new Government, elected in October 2023, is intending to weaken existing freshwater protections as well as implement economic policies that will further intensify agricultural land use, prioritise private property right and undo progress to address the country’s water infrastructure deficit.
Agricultural land use has been a major contributor to this decline, with almost half of the total length of the country’s waterways running through agricultural land. 
Regions where dairy farming has expanded and intensified over the last 30 years have experienced extensive and rapid decline in recent decades. These are primarily the regions of Canterbury, Southland, Waikato, Taranaki, and Manawatū, though intensive dairy operations exist outside these regions too. Horticulture, forestry, and other livestock farming also contribute to pollution of waterways and loss of habitat. 
Wetlands are still being lost, primarily as a result of being drained for livestock grazing. Some intensive horticulture operations can have particularly high nitrogen loss to water. 
Forestry can be a significant contributor of sediment and nutrients, particularly at the time of harvest. Impacts of forestry on NZ waterways have been particularly pronounced in the eastern regions of the North Island, especially Gisborne.
The authors said “we have written this article to bring to the attention of the international community the destructive environmental decisions the new NZ Government is making. We do so because the destruction of the environment in one part of the world is not inconsequential for other places and communities. We also write in the hope that international pressure might play a part in limiting the damage done to NZ’s freshwater policy and its waterways.


Pine monocultures for commercial and carbon farming detrimental to ecology and environment

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9 Responses to Government Proposals Will Worsen NZ’s freshwater crisis

  1. Chippie says:

    Local commercial pine mono-cultural forests in a climate-changing world.

    NZFFA - New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers

  2. Charles Baycroft says:

    Conservation of freshwater and other natural resources will be very difficult.
    For most people, fresh water comes out of a tap or in a plastic bottle and they are more interested in looking at their devices than nature.
    The outdoors hunting and gathering culture has been replaced with an urban consumer culture in which people hunt and gather in the mall or online shopping.
    Today’s young people are more concerned with fear of climate change or being “misgendered” than going to the rivers, lakes and forests.
    The propaganda blames the deterioration of ecosystems on climate change and proposes buying new cars and other “green” products as the necessary solution.
    Nature is a hostile place full of pests, poisons and other dangers. Who wants to go there when they can hang out with their “friends” on social media or ride their ebike to the shops?
    The main political parties are mainly influenced by Greenies who want to convert the conservation lands to dense bush with some birds that no-one wants to visit and economic elites who want to privatise and exploit the natural resources for their financial benefit.
    The people that care about outdoors recreation are not influential in these political parties so they will be ignored.
    The only way to effectively oppose the waste of resources and increasing pollution is to join and become active in a major political party instead of being apolitical complainers.

    • Peter. Bragg says:

      Absolutely Charlie’s, true in every aspect, that most important comment is that we need a louder voice, a political party, a celebrity, imagine some like Peter Jackson

  3. James Squire says:

    I couldn’t agree more Charles about the wisdom of getting in to where policies and political decisions are made. Forest and Bird have mastered it and infiltrated to where decisions are made. Sadly anglers and hunters remain politically naive and frankly inert and apathetic.
    That’s why they are constantly confronted with threats to the outdoors and in the case of the article degradation of the environment.

  4. Peter Trolove says:

    With the coalition government attempting to run New Zealand as a corporation, (for the benefit of corporations), our natural resources are in for another damaging round of exploitation. Politicians these days resemble land agents, flogging off New Zealand’s land, sea, and freshwater assets to global capital in order to increase GDP so that they can borrow more off shore money in order to increase the national debt to pay for their half baked election promises.
    The appeal of neo-liberal politics is that is does not require any great understanding of science or the natural world.
    Sadly much harm can be done in a three year term, especially in “100 day” bursts.

  5. Charles Baycroft says:

    Our political system is actually Oligarchy because a small minority of active members and funders of the main political parties decide who will be selected and promoted to become elected.
    The elected politicians have to represent and serve the minority of people that chose and promoted them or lose their jobs as MPs.
    Mmp enables the elites of the main parties to also appoint MPs that no-one else wanted or was even allowed to vote for.
    The political parties, even National and Labour have very few members and most are not actively involved or aware of who runs the show.
    Oligarchy is not democracy but it is an opportunity for groups of people to become actively involved in choosing and supporting politicians that will represent and serve then.
    If you think “the government” cares about you because you pay taxes and votes you are a fool.
    The government only cares about the influential political and economic elites that decide who is selected, promoted and elected to serve them.
    People that enjoy outdoors activities like fishing and hunting do not get represented and served because they are not in the game of thrones called politics.
    Not being involved in the game is choosing to be a loser.
    If enough outdoors people would get into the game they could become winners but that would take action instead of just talk and complaining.
    Starting more new political parties that are doomed to fail is just what the elites minority wants people to do because it maintains their monopoly.
    Join one of the main parties and front up to their local (secret) meetings and you will find out how few people are involved.
    We cannot beat then unless we join and get influence in their crooked little game so that there will still be fish to catch and game to hunt in the future.

  6. Paul says:

    We would all like the new government to get onto improving our water quality. If anyone could step up it would be greatly appreciated. David Seymour campaigned on real change, please follow this up David.

  7. Grant Henderson says:

    Look at any poll taken about the key issues of concern to New Zealanders, and you’ll find the environment either at the bottom of the list or not there at all.

    It’s always the economy/cost of living, housing, health, education, transport, “social justice” (whatever that is) and so on.

    Yet people wonder why their mental health is suffering …

  8. Eugene Fox says:

    Hi Grant, I saw recently somewhere(?) where the deteriorated state of rivers and lakes was still one of the main several issues with people. Of course back in 2017, Jacinda Ardern and her Labour sycophants and the social engineering Green Party promised to clean up rivers but did nothing. Six years later they dithered and failed.
    National’s John Key’s government ( main driver Nick Smith) arrogantly implemented a state control of Environment Canterbury to facilitate corporate dairying expansion, the public’s aquifer and rivers have dangerously high nitrate levels – dangerous and toxic to aquatic life and to human health.
    Now after Labour and Greens were rightly drop kicked at the last election, we have the reestablishment of National with the mediocre, but ego-driven Chris Bishop and NZ First’s arrogant rampaging Shane Jones, wanting to fast track exploitation proposals.
    Well both Labour and National failed in terms of environment and rivers.
    Perhaps an earlier commentator Charles Baycroft has the solution – don’t shy away from politics. Get involved.
    “Join one of the main parties and front up to their local (secret) meetings and you will find out how few people are involved.
    “We cannot beat then unless we join and get influence in their crooked little game so that there will still be fish to catch and game to hunt in the future.”

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