The government of New Zealand has announced plans to protect its inland waters, after claims that pollution from sources such as farming and tourism have rendered most lakes and rivers unfit to swim in, reports The Guardian. The country’s image of a pristine environment is on the rocks.
The Minister of Environment, David Parker, warned that unless action is taken, the situation will deteriorate and become even more expensive to deal with. He stated ‘Our rivers, lakes and wetlands are under serious threat after years of neglect. We can’t continue to go on like we are’.
The environment ministry reports that up to two thirds of the country’s rivers are unfit to swim in, and three quarters of native fish species found in inland waters are threatened. Moreover, citizens are encouraged to check for public health warnings on the Internet if they want to enjoy some water based recreational activities.
Under the proposed plan, improvements would be observed in a five year time frame. It contemplates stricter water quality requirements for bathing waters, stricter requirements concerning farming practices, and restrictions on land intensification and new land conversions to dairy farming.
Diffuse source pollution associated with intensive land use, particularly dairy farming, has been linked to the decline in water quality over the past two decades. At the same time, the country’s dairy industry, the largest exporter worldwide, experienced a boom. Now the farming sector is concerned about the economic feasibility of their industry under the new stricter environmental requirements. They say the new measures throw farming ‘under the tractor’. The government plans to invest NZ$229m (US$145m) to support the transition into farming practices that are more environmentally friendly.