Fish & Game salutes farming pledge to make rivers swimmable

Fish & Game has applauded the pledge by Federated Farmers to make all New Zealand rivers swimmable.

The pledge was launched on the banks of the Ngaruroro River in Hawke's Bay, by Federated Farmers president Katie Milne, representing an informal grouping of pastoral farming leaders that was established in May this year.

Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson says “we welcome with open arms this statement – and a frank admission from farming leaders that the industry has not always got it right.”

Mr Johnson says Fish & Game agrees wholeheartedly with the comments that the pledge is ambitious but “simply the right thing to do.”

We at Fish & Game have spent some years calling for this sort of stand and action from farming leaders, and dairying in particular.

And we acknowledge that while we can argue over the number of kilometres involved, some real steps have been taken in the form of measures like fencing off waterways for example, to prevent cattle from fouling streams and rivers.

“This new commitment puts farming leaders in step with the community at large – ordinary folk around the country who we and others have noted repeatedly – are fed up with dirty rivers that aren’t swimmable let alone fishable.”

We would echo the comments of others however, who have rated this is a significant first step – and we now need to see concrete details.

“In other words, the industry putting its money where its mouth is” as far as remedial and preventative measures are concerned.

Mr Johnson says that the Government and Environment Minister Nick Smith badly let the country down with revised standards, “a con job in effect that involved lowering standards so more waterways could be passed off as swimmable.”

The efforts of farming leaders, in cooperation with Fish & Game and environmental agencies and groups, need to be underpinned by stronger controls on pollution, and a halt to intensified dairying in particular.

“The Government’s subsidies for big irrigation schemes is nothing short of a scandal that encourages intensification and further damage to our environment.”