World Water Day time to celebrate community efforts to improve water quality

World Water Day is a time to celebrate the efforts of the many thousands of New Zealanders who are taking action to improve water quality and restore our streams, lakes and rivers, says Environment Minister David Parker.

“That’s why I was glad to join the students and staff of Koraunui School today and I congratulate them on their excellent efforts over the past five years to improve the state of the Stokes Valley Stream,” Mr Parker says.

“It reminds us all that the most important river to all of us is the one closest to our homes and communities.

“We know that New Zealanders, at school and in the community, on their own land and in catchment groups, are fencing off streams, planting trees, keeping pollutants out of stormwater drains, and taking other action to help restore the health of our waterways.

“Water matters to New Zealanders and the many voluntary actions and partnerships around the country do make a difference, just as those at Koraunui School are making a difference to their local stream.”

For instance:

  • In the Manawatu-Whanganui region, an independent report has shown water quality for sediment and E. coli has improved over the past 7-10 years and that local scale interventions are contributing to regional scale water quality improvements.
  • In response to government and public pressure, Auckland Council intends to bring forward $856 million of investment over the next 10 years, as part of its proposed $7 billion investment in water infrastructure, to reduce wet weather sewage overflows onto city beaches by between 80 per cent and 90 per cent.
  • On a smaller scale, many of the 1100 schools involved in the Enviroschools programme, including Koraunui, are involved in restoring their local waterways.
  • Over 26,000 kilometres of streams on dairy farms have been fenced to keep stock out of waterways.

There is still more we need to do.

On freshwater quality, we have asked the Land and Water Forum for further advice on some key issues including:

  • How to allocate nutrient loads – that is, how land owners in a catchment can best share responsibility for reducing nutrient discharge to within set limits.
  • How to manage sediment – that is, how to reduce the soil runoff that is silting rivers and estuaries and affecting mahinga kai
  • What can be done between now and 2020 to prevent further damage.

The Government is also considering a number of specific issues including stock exclusion, royalties on bottled water, and protecting estuarine environments.

None is simple and we are taking the time we need to ensure we are tackling the issues in the most effective way.