Water use agreements crucial

A new national report on water quality reinforces the need for regional councils to work with communities on managing freshwater says Chris Laidlaw, Greater Wellington Regional Council chair.

“Our whole approach to improving water quality in this region has been built around community aspirations and the methods and rules that are being developed are designed to deliver real impacts in water quality, availability and use.

A survey released this week from Lincoln University says New Zealanders’ perceptions about the country’s natural resources has found twice as many people now blame farming for damaging fresh waterways as in 2000.

Councillor Laidlaw says it is essential that local communities agree on the future for the freshwater in their areas to get useful and lasting agreements on how to manage it.

“It’s also important to understand that the quality of water in streams and rivers is not just the result of farming practices. Urban contamination is also a major contributor and the programmes of action will be a mix of urban and rural actions.

We are all in this together and Greater Wellington’s responses need to reflect that ‘whole of community’ approach.”

“We’re currently working with communities in Wairarapa and around Porirua Harbour to make informed decisions about managing land and freshwater for future generations. We will begin the same conversation with communities in the Hutt Valley and Wellington later in the year.”

Cr Laidlaw says the rules set out in GWRC’s Proposed Natural Resources Plan are in line with the government’s objectives for freshwater.

GWRC’s Proposed Natural Resources Plan will be heard by an independent panel from May this year before being formally adopted. Public hearings will be held in Kāpiti, Wellington and Wairarapa.

“We’ve spent five years working jointly with iwi in the region to consult stakeholders and develop a plan that will serve the region’s environment and its people.

“The work we are doing with communities around water quality will be included in the plan in the future.”

Cr Laidlaw says the MFE report shows two thirds of region’s rivers and lakes are swimmable on average over the course of a year.

“We can do better than that and we will. It’s in everyone’s interests that we steadily improve the overall quality of freshwater.”

The MFE report takes monitoring data provided by regional councils for most large rivers and lakes across New Zealand and reports which generally have E. coli levels that are safe for swimming.

GWRC and Land, Air and Water Aotearoa provide up to date information on popular swimming areas through the “Is it safe to swim” webpages www.gw.govt.nz/is-it-safe-to-swim/