Fish&Game calls for stronger environment protection laws after “sobering report”
Fish & Game is calling for a radical re-think on environment protection laws, saying the just-issued State of The Environment Report shows the present system isn’t working.
The report is the first to look at the state of New Zealand’s environment in eight years and highlights intensive farming and climate change as the two biggest threats to the environment. It was independently prepared for the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand.
The report says nitrogen leaching and phosphorous levels in waters are increasing, and water clarity is worsening in rural and urban areas. Agriculture is a major contributor to both nitrogen and phosphorous levels and both chemicals can contaminate water, lowering its quality and promoting algal growth. In extreme cases, nitrogen and phosphorous pollution can make a waterway toxic to life.
Fish & Game’s chief executive Bryce Johnson says the report makes for sobering reading and highlights the need for stronger environmental regulations and greater enforcement to reverse the serious degradation that is occurring.
“Here we have yet another government report telling us that New Zealand’s natural environment – its freshwaters and biodiversity – is continuing to be downgraded.
“The report repeats the same stories we heard in the last State Of The Environment Report in 2007 and yet the widely identified problem of land use intensification continues to be encouraged by the agricultural industry and central and local government.
“This is out of step with what New Zealanders want – water that is swimmable, drinkable and safe for food gathering.
“What they are getting instead are agriculturally degraded lowland waters that are increasing only suitable for wading, with less aquatic life and heightened concerns over their suitability for food gathering,” Mr Johnson says.
Bryce Johnson says the continuing deterioration of the environment shows the present system isn’t working.
“The only solution is tighter regulation. The good guys are complying with the rules but the bad guys are getting away with it and thumbing their noses at the public. And the worst part is that central and local government are allowing them to.
“The government must now publicly uphold parliament’s clear intent that the Resource Management Act must first protect the environment. This is abundantly clear in Section 5 of the RMA which requires that the likes of intensive agriculture can only happen if the life supporting capacity of water and ecosystems is safeguarded."
Mr Johnson said local government also needs to take stronger action to enforce environment laws.
“The environment can’t afford to be in the care of local authorities which ignore their job of protecting our water and our wild places. Regional councils are there to serve all ratepayers, not the few who want to ignore reality and continue polluting our recreation areas.”
Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson welcomes the publication of the State of the Environment Report, saying the government, agricultural leaders and local authorities need to take heed of its warnings.
“Agricultural industry rhetoric about transitioning to good management is simply inadequate. The industry’s focus on protecting the environment would be much sharper if dairy companies were made formally responsibly for their suppliers’ environmental performance ” said Mr Johnson.