Startling admission from ORC Chair
An admission by Otago Regional Council Chair Stephen Woodhead that they will probably not meet the deadline to implement current freshwater national standards is concerning, Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.
"Mr Woodhead claims that central Government was 'impatient' to see cleaner water.
"Despite that bold claim, in fact, it is Kiwis that are impatient to see their rivers and lakes cleaned up.
"A nationwide poll conducted for Fish & Game in December by Colmar Brunton shows that over 80 per cent of Kiwis are concerned about water quality.
"The first National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management was introduced in 2014 and was updated in 2017. It is hardly a surprise that the Council had to meet these water quality standards.
"Additionally, earlier this month Environment Minister David Parker started an investigation into whether the ORC was on track to adequately perform its function under the Resource Management Act concerning the management of freshwater and the allocation of resources. The Council has known since 1991 that they needed to process these so-called 'Goldfield consents' - and has left their replacement to the last minute.
"It's clear that it is not the speed of the Government that is the issue. The problem is the speed of regional councils to tackle freshwater challenges.
"The recent Environment Aotearoa 2019 report revealed how most regional councils across New Zealand have completely failed to protect the environment.
"While regional councils have a legal obligation to protect the environment for future generations some of the worst water quality issues can be found across New Zealand where regional councils have promoted and protected intensive agricultural interests over the environment.
"Mr Woodhead is also telling the Government that only two Councils will be able to meet one of their core functions of protecting the environment for future generations by meeting the 2025 requirement.
"This has to be concerning for any Government that wants to stop further degradation of our waterways.
"If regional councils are unable to live up to their legal obligations - it is time to consider if they are the fit and proper people to restore our environment.
"This year, the Government is releasing a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater. This presents an opportunity for the Government to tackle an issue Kiwis are deeply concerned about.
"Kiwis are losing their ability to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams. That's why it is so vital that that tougher water quality rules to protect rivers, lakes and streams from pollution are introduced.
"Regional Councils must then prove that they are up to the task of implementing this new policy."