Election - Fish & Game media releases

14 September 2017

Call for honesty in water debate

Opponents of water quality proposals are being called on to bring honesty and reality to the debate on improving New Zealand’s waterways.

Water quality has become a major feature of the 2017 election, with soaring public concern about the declining state of the country’s rivers, lakes and streams.

Some farming sectors are fighting back, opposing proposals to improve water quality through a small royalty on water use and are now organising political rallies to campaign against the plans.

Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson says many of the claims being made against water quality initiatives are just plain wrong.

“Much of what is being said is alarmist rabble rousing of the worst sort.  Claims that the proposed royalty will mean milk will cost $40 a litre and people will have to pay $2.80 for a single apple are just nonsense,” Mr Johnson says.

“How is a royalty of two cents a cubic metre of water going to have such a dramatic impact on consumer prices when farmers say paying many times that for irrigation water – 25 cents a cubic metre - is cost effective?

“This issue is just too important to be derailed by political scaremongering,” Mr Johnson says.

“Claiming the royalty on water use is a tax and will mean the end of profitable farming is nonsense.  Royalties are already levied on gold, oil, coal and even gravel and they ensure New Zealanders get a return on what is being taken from their country.

“These royalties haven’t wrecked the economy, so how is a tiny royalty on water any different?” Mr Johnson says.

“Agriculture has been getting a free ride with natural water for years.  Claiming the industry is the backbone of the country wears a bit thin when numerous official reports conclude the environmental consequences have been massive.”

Bryce Johnson says politicians and the agriculture industry need to face up to the reality that water quality must be urgently tackled.

“We need to fix the wrongs.  While many farmers are already doing great work to protect the environment industry leaders need to deal with the hardcore element that is in denial that the problem even exists.

“These deniers are tarnishing farming’s image and losing it its social licence to operate.

“A just-released survey of business leaders shows 93% see water quality as a major issue and want more done to ensure New Zealand has clean water for the future.

“The law on this has been clear since 1991.  After a quarter of a century, we need to start living up to its expectations,” Mr Johnson says.

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9 Sept 2017

Voters urged to make vote count in 'swimmable' election

As voting for the 2017 General Election begins, people are being urged to have their say in what Fish & Game is describing as the "swimmable" election.HB 3

From today, electors are able to cast their votes early, while those living overseas have been able to vote since last Wednesday, 6 September.

How many more rivers like this one in Hawke's Bay will become un-swimmable without a rescue plan?  

The environment has emerged as one of the top election issues and Fish & Game’s chief executive Bryce Johnson believes the continuing debate over water quality will play a role in deciding the next government.

“The declining quality of our fresh waterways is deeply worrying New Zealanders who have watched in dismay as the river they used to swim in as a child has become so dirty they can no longer take their own children there to enjoy it,” Mr Johnson says.

Bryce Johnson says that growing public anger makes 2017 the ‘swimmable’ election.

“All parties need to be committing to a proper action plan which will make our rivers, lakes and streams swimmable, fishable and safe to gather food from.

“People were outraged earlier this year when the government tried to declare rivers were swimmable by lifting the allowable pollution levels.  Such a cynical bureaucratic stroke of the pen is not going to fix the dire state of our waterways,” Mr Johnson says.

He says the government is now using the same ‘stroke of the pen’ tactic with irrigation and dams, announcing Crown Irrigation will now be able to focus on environmental benefits from its projects.

The government is claiming this is good news for the environment but Mr Johnson says the move is cynical and will provide no environmental benefit.

“This is just a smokescreen for the government to continue its policy of intensifying agriculture at the expense of the environment while appearing to be listening to the growing public anger over the state of our waterways.

“Despite what the minister is claiming, irrigation and dams aren’t good for our rivers, lakes and streams,” Mr Johnson says.

“Quite apart from reducing natural water flows, they also result in intensifying greater land use in previously marginal and unsuitable landscapes with corresponding adverse environmental effects.”

Fish & Game says with less than a fortnight until the Election on September 23, voters should now be scrutinising political party policies and deciding which will do the most to improve the environment and recreational access to the outdoors.

“It is now up to voters to familiarise themselves with the policies and choose which is best for them and the outdoor pursuits they enjoy,” Bryce Johnson says.

Fish & Game urges New Zealanders to visit www.h2whoa.co.nz for facts on the water quality issue and links to some of the key reports by government agencies and other organisations.

This site also provides political party answers on key environmental questions, as well as an easy way to send a letter to your local MP calling for action on water quality.

Fish & Game also gave the country’s political parties the chance to outline their policy positions on key outdoor issues.

To read their replies click here

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8 September 2017

Government’s new irrigation focus ‘a cynical smokescreen’

Fish & Game is dismissing as “cynical” and “a smokescreen” the government’s claim it is giving the crown’s irrigation company a new environmental focus.

The Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has just announced Cabinet has approved changing Crown Irrigation’s constitution – so it can fund water storage projects with direct environmental and economic benefits rather than just economic benefits alone.

intensified agriculture at the expense of the environment?

Crown Irrigation was established in 2013 to invest and advise on irrigation schemes and Mr Guy claims the move to expand its focus is good news for the environment.

But Fish & Game says the move is cynical and will provide no environmental benefit.

“This is just a smokescreen for the government to continue its policy of intensifying agriculture at the expense of the environment while appearing to be listening to the growing public anger over the state of our waterways,” Fish & Game’s chief executive Bryce Johnson says.

“Despite what the minister is claiming, irrigation and dams aren’t good for our rivers, lakes and streams.

“Creating more and more water storage projects will only exacerbate our water quality problems by encouraging more and more intensive agriculture,” Mr Johnson says.  

“This is a path to further environmental degradation and we need to stop trying to put intensive farming operations like dairying in inappropriate regions with naturally leaky soils and vulnerable waterways.   

“The government has plenty of reports, including from its own advisors like the Parliamentary Commissioner For The Environment and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, that this sort of development is not good for the environment.

“To claim otherwise is just plain wrong and it is time the government heeded its own advisors,” says Bryce Johnson.

Fish & Game says the government’s apparent change in direction is just semantics and indicates it realises it is exposed by its claims that irrigation schemes and dams provide significant economic benefits.

“The reality is that dams provide very expensive water and farmers are reluctant to commit to buying water from schemes like the one proposed for Wairarapa,” Bryce Johnson says.  

“That understandable reluctance by farmers is why the government is using taxpayers’ money to subsidise these otherwise economically unfeasible schemes.

“The government’s latest announcement is desperate stuff and shows it is scrambling to prove its damming and irrigation policies are economically sound when in reality they are being debunked economically and environmentally,” Mr Johnson says.

Mr Johnson says with an election only weeks away, the present government would be better to listen more carefully to the public anger over water quality. 

“The public have had enough.  They are tired of having their waterways damned, diverted and dirtied and the present government’s failure to listen is frustrating voters even further.

“Surely the government needs to listen to the obvious public mood and come up with a coherent and acceptable water quality policy which heals the damage already done,” Bryce Johnson says.

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7 September 2017

Voters urged to 'look hard' at party promises

With just over a fortnight until the General Election on September 23, voters are being urged to take a hard look at which political parties will do the most to improve the environment and recreational access to the outdoors.

The environment has emerged as one of the top issues of the 2017 election, with some media commentators even dubbing it the environment election.

Fish & Game says public concern over the environment, particularly water, has been building for years.

“The state of the country’s rivers, lakes and streams has been worrying people for years and their frustration at the lack of action and continued abuse of our waterways is now readily apparent,” says Fish & Game’s Chief Executive Bryce Johnson.

“Water quality is now one of the key issues that voters will consider before they cast their vote,” Mr Johnson says.  

Most parties have woken up to fact that our waterways  are way out of step with what Kiwis  want – immediate action to return rivers so they are  swimmable, fishable and safe to gather food from , he says. 

“It is now up to voters to familiarise themselves with the policies and choose which is best for them and the outdoor pursuits they enjoy.

 “Fish & Game urges voters to consider the merits of each and every party’s environmental policy with a critical eye before voting.  

“This election falls at the right time for all of those who care about the environment and water quality standards in particular, to tell the government in no uncertain terms, they are fed up and out of patience,” Bryce Johnson says.

Access to the outdoors and the purchase of prime recreational areas by overseas buyers is also proving to be a significant issue for New Zealanders.

Fish & Game has also taken a strong stand on the government’s Clean Water report, criticising it as simply shifting the goalposts for water quality.

And it is one of the groups which has helped formulate the seven-point Freshwater Rescue Plan (https://www.freshwaterrescueplan.org/) for cleaning up and protecting our waterways. 

“Fish & Game is by no means the only organisation that has attempted to highlight the public’s anger over the state of their rivers, lakes and streams but in spite of petitions, marches and so on, the government has shown little response.”

Fish & Game urges New Zealanders to visit www.h2whoa.co.nz for some facts on the water quality issue and links to some of the key reports by government agencies and other organisations.

The website also provides an easy way to send a letter and call for action from your local MP.