Protecting New Zealand's Fresh Water - TOP

The state of our freshwater has got so bad that scientists, tourism operators, health experts and environmental organisations have come together to speak out. What has brought this group together in an unprecedented stance? Their concerns are shared because clean water is the backbone of our economy, our environment and our society. Tourism is our number one export earner, and our 100% Pure brand is under threat. Even more worrying are the problems with contaminated drinking water that we are seeing in Canterbury (with rising nitrogen levels) and the Hawkes Bay (with bacteria). 


The reaction of the Government to these looming problems has been completely inadequate. So these groups have come up with a plan for much stronger action. This plan is a first, and one that The Opportunities Party welcomes. We have already released some ideas that will improve our fresh water in our environment policy, but plan to release a more detailed policy specifically on fresh water soon. Let’s look at the seven ideas below and see how they fit with The Opportunities Party policy:

1. Protect the health of people and their waterways by setting strict and enforceable water quality standards, based on human and ecosystem health limits.

Most people talk about swimmable rivers, because that is what the public relates to. But of course we want to be able to gather kai, and make sure our native species can live in the water too.

2. Withdraw all public subsidies of irrigation schemes as they increase pressure on waterways.

Absolutely – public subsidies for irrigation are crazy, particularly when we don’t make polluters pay for the resulting damage. The public are just paying people to make a mess that the public then pay again to clean up.

3. Invest in an agricultural transition fund, to support the country’s shift away from environmentally-damaging farming methods by redirecting $480 million of public money earmarked for irrigation.

This is a neat idea, and a far better way to spend the money. We also see the revenue from making polluters pay (discussed below) going towards farmers that pollute less, which will create a much bigger incentive for this transition.

4. Implement strategies to decrease cow numbers immediately.

The Opportunities Party certainly opposes further intensification (putting more cows on the land) unless it can be demonstrated that water quality will not be affected (e.g. through the use of feed pads). That said, a reduction in cow numbers is the most likely outcome.

5. Reduce freshwater contamination by instigating polluter pays systems nationally.

This is central to The Opportunities Party’s clear water solution. For example any farmer leaching above a set level of nitrogen in a catchment will be charged, with the money going to a farmer that is leaching below that level. This will create the strongest possible incentive to reduce pollution and improve our fresh water.

6. Address the performance of regional councils on improving water quality through quarterly reports from the ministry for the environment on enforcement, breaches and monitoring.

We agree there is an issue with oversight, and this is highlighted in our policy. If the Ministry for the Environment is going to have the oversight role, we would need some assurance that the Minister will not interfere.

7. Adopt the OECD recommendation to establish a “whole-of-government multistakeholder process to develop a long-term vision for the transition of New Zealand to a low-carbon, greener economy.”

Again, this makes complete sense, and is part of our climate policy

 In short, we welcome this report and thank those that helped create it. The fact that there is so much agreement shouldn’t come as a surprise; that is what happens when you look at the evidence and create a solution to the problem.




Showing 15 reactions

  • Greg Mann
    commented 2017-06-15 11:28:59 +1200
    Hi Bee, agree with many of your points, on the monitoring/use side, things are gradually being tightened up; new (if granted) and renewed irrigation consents (at least, in my company’s experience) now typically require the installation of “smart” monitoring systems (which automatically log daily usage and send it to the council/local authority); some areas also require the installation of soil moisture probes (etc.) to ensure water is only being added when required/conditions are optimal.
  • Bee Pikia
    commented 2017-06-15 10:31:58 +1200
    TOP I am terrified that while everyone focus’s on surface water, our land users are poking holes in the land and extracting ridiculous amounts of groundwater. Some irrigating farmers have mentioned power bills in excess of 35K per day to run one central pivot irrigator. But this is also not my main concern. The irrigation consents have gone out and are hardly being monitored due to the fact that apparently our decision makers have trouble learning from other countries that have intensified on this scale and been burned in the process, what we should actually be monitoring to determine if this land use practice is proven to be having any adverse effects. Lack of monitoring of irrigation take and its impacts, water take, dairy, residential and commercial use is also not my main concern. As a qualified Environmental Manger I would have presumed before actually getting my hands in and seeing for myself the reality of disorganisation between local, district and regional councils that we would all be on the same page when it comes to groundwater. Unfortunately even within these separate organisations (that yes work at different scales but should share the same bloody vision hopefully of sustainability) we have departments of staff that barely communicate for fear of being wrong in front of peers or stepping on senior staff members giant heads and barely share information with each other resulting in a lot of double handling of information, loss of information and an inability to remain as current as possible with the issues that we can not wait any longer to act on. Groundwater science is still in it’s infancy but we do know that when contamination occurs the effects can remain in place with no hope of mitigation even using the most current technological advances. We are still only learning the roles and functions of the ecology that exists below ground and all the while allowing a free for all to occur with out stipulation of the responsibility of any one who gains access to groundwater to manage the installation, maintenance and management of these access points. Over and over I see very poor well head protection on farms. The least we can do is ensure that anyone with this responsibility understands the implications of allowing their cows (or stock) access directly to the bore head and in some cases a perfect spot to scratch the back and bum potentially crapping straight down the pipe. I wonder if feasibility studies have been conducted to calculate the costs of fixing groundwater contamination issues or the cost to other users who now have to install more and more filtration and treatments to be able to use what water is left, the cost to downstream users who now have flooding and nitrate and phosphorus issues as a result of upstream user actions, the cost to recreational users who can no longer enjoy our broken scenery, the intrinsic cost that most people are unaware of as they have never felt like they belonged to this land that sustains us and have never had a responsibility to enhance and protect it for the future. At least TOP seem to be addressing some of the issues rather than the red and blue boys who appear to still be trying to pretend that we can carry on with BAU (business as usual).
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-06-13 22:07:42 +1200
  • Friend
    commented 2017-06-12 15:45:49 +1200
    Dairying is a very dirty business. Methane emitted by almost 7 million dairy cows is having a greater effect on climate warming than CO2 emissions in New Zealand. To make matters even worse, Fonterra is burning half a million tons of low grade coal, mainly in the South Island, just to turn fresh milk into milk powder, a high percentage of which is exported.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-11 22:10:40 +1200
    Just do whatever is required to rescue our freshwater.
  • Greg Mann
    commented 2017-06-11 20:51:35 +1200
    Carl Scott: I haven’t been “told” anything Carl and I have no particular axe to grind either way: I’ve simply read the available scientific literature (which concludes, for example, that 1080 is “not mutagenic and therefore unlikely to cause cancer”). Anyway, enough, let’s just agree we have a different view on this one.
  • carl scott
    commented 2017-06-11 17:23:58 +1200
    Greg Mann. To start with. We are dealing with sodium MONO flouroacetate here. Not even close to docs flouroacetate in a cup of tea attempt at calming peoples concerns about the amounts dropped directly into our drinking water. Why would the manufacturers labeling state not to drop this within 500 meters of ANY waterway and also to remove all dead animals to a toxic waste dump? DOC occasionally come clean but from what i have both seen personally and from what others have proven beyond doubt is that the numbers of dead native birds you have claimed[ probably from docs handbook of dodgy lies for the gullible version 900],is an outright lie. Recently 21 out of 31 monitored morpork died during a 1080 operation in Southland. Kea are being exterminated as we speak. There is no reason to use this poison. The way docs mathematics work is…example.. pre 1080 say 100 birds. 1080 wipes out 80% of these birds as well as a few rats and possums. Of the 20 birds still alive and probably suffering from non lethal poisoning 10 may breed successfully. DOC jump up and down patting themselves on the back because in their minds its a 50% increase and thats all the public hear. 1080 has been proven to cause cancers in tests on rats and mice in parts per trillion. It mutates DNA in non lethal doses. I wouldnt mind betting there is still way more than that amount in Auckland water after the Hunua drop. I have been watching DOC wipe out our birds for about 20 years, and despite what you have been told 1080 does not magically disappear into thin air. If you are pro 1080 you have government organisations as well as several supposedly environmental groups and the media constantly touting the lies coming from DOC. People need to wake up and realize they and the native wildlife they love so much are being poisoned.
  • Greg Mann
    commented 2017-06-11 14:33:15 +1200
    Re 1080: Objective, peer-reviewed research has shown that kereru, tomtit and robin numbers increase dramatically post 1080 drops. The number of kiwi, kakariki and native falcons that have been killed by 1080 (based on surveys post aerial drops) is – zero. It is true that “occasionally” (to quote Forest & Bird), deaths of weka, rifleman, and grey warblers have been noted (yes Carl, dead birds are counted: there is no conspiracy involving DoC here……).

    As regards water quality, if you are worried about that Carl, I hope you don’t drink black tea: a cup contains fluoroacetate (the "active ingredient in 1080) at about 1.5 x the recommended Ministry of Health levels for drinking water.
  • john arlidge
    followed this page 2017-06-11 12:15:59 +1200
  • carl scott
    commented 2017-06-10 22:33:59 +1200
    Greenwitch Vaudrey. !080 is intentionally dropped into our waterways. It is easier for the people spreading this poison to do that rather than avoid the water. About two years ago Auckland council and Waikato council along with DOC dropped 40 tons almost directly into Aucklands drinking water.The use of this is brainless and dangerous and there are so many better ways of controlling pests. Apart from that more and more evidence has been provided that this poison is killing our native birds faster than any predators could. DOC and TBfree are now even infecting possums and letting them free into the wild in areas which should never have had to be poisoned. The people setting the scientific safety precedents regarding this stuff are ex or current members of user organisations and couldnt be trusted to let the public or the government know the truth.The sheer cruelty of 1080 is profound agony and convulsing animals often break their own bones while bleeding from every orifice. Infected animals are often found in streams where they may get some relief but poison the water in the process. Doc never pick up poisoned carcasses, only dead native birds they dont want the public to see.There is not enough room for the whole ugly side of 1080 to be aired here but so far the fact that this political party condones its use is enough for me to vote for any party that wont. I have written to this party re alternatives to poison in our waterways and received no reply. Maybe they should have avoided this topic.
  • Kevin Pollard
    commented 2017-06-10 15:41:54 +1200
    Ok so you directed me to this page, it still doesn’t address my question. Looking after our fresh water is great and needed. We cant carry on with the same old never ending pollution and the Polluter Pays is a great way to sort this.
    My question was about our fisheries (Seafish). you propose to make 10% reserves, but of what? The Hauraki Gulf or all NZ? I like the idea of no take reserves, but its just not enough. Take a look at NZ First’s fisheries policy. Its a very well thought out policy which gives the majority of New Zealanders what they want to see. Protection of OUR fish stocks, protection of breeding fish, recreational fishers over commercial fishers eg 12 mile inshore comms fishing ban, getting more value out of exported catch, and best of all, ban on fish dumping of any kind. That’s what I would like you to come up with. Regards.
  • Greenwitch Vaudrey
    commented 2017-06-10 12:10:56 +1200
    Thanks Carl Scott. Wher does the TOP party stand on the issue of 1080? ..another very hot topic. I don’t care what is said…it’s poison, there’s a lot of it and it must leech into our waterways
  • Ann McLean
    commented 2017-06-10 10:29:23 +1200
    Thank you for coordinating a forum of people and organisations concerned about water quality. There have been numerous recent press articles about dairy cows in sheds – ( e.g.…/news/…/Breaking-out-of-the-milk-powder-trap-Why-dairy-may-turn…Apr 29, 2017). While these stories have indicated positives in better control of effluent and animal welfare – cows, being herd animals by nature, actually at times prefer the shelter of barns to exposure to blistering sun or bitter cold, a further potential positive has not been much discussed. If the animals congregate in barns and the waste dropped there is collected, not only does this reduce the portion of waste entering our waterways, it also has the potential to yield two further income streams, biogas and organic fertiliser – a ‘virtuous circle’. The technology to generate small but useful renewable electricity supplies and recover organic biomass is both technically and commercially mature. There are more than 17,000 such biomass digesters operating in Europe – see…/european-biogas-association-reports-17-376-biogas-plants-i…Jan 23, 2017. A serious investigation of these technologies might lead to actions with clear triple bottom line benefits here. What we need is a government with the guts to govern – to prevent farmers passing their costs on to the environment.
  • James P Barton
    commented 2017-06-09 18:50:40 +1200
    How about TOP advocating for a National Environment Standard for Monitoring of Fresh Water?
  • carl scott
    commented 2017-06-09 18:48:19 +1200
    I an very surprised that this issue has come up. I would have thought that the FACT that Gareth himself supports the thousands of tons of the worlds deadliest poisons being dumped into every waterway in the country ,might mean he would shy away from this subject. I am still wondering what is really going on because the poisoning programs he also supports are actually killing all our wild native animals like theres no tomorrow. Fox minding the hen house?