Fish & Game react to shoddy LGNZ Essential Freshwater report

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Local Government New Zealand’s Regional Sector Water Subgroup has today released a report assessing some of the potential impacts of the reforms proposed under the Essential Freshwater Package.

“There are some serious concerns with this shoddy piece of work,” Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

“Regional councils should be focused on meeting their obligations under the RMA to protect the environment for future generations, which they have failed to do.

“We know this from a report that Local Government New Zealand tried to bury when journalists were distracted on Budget Day. This report calls out regional councils for ‘significant shortcomings’ when it comes to compliance, monitoring and enforcement functions under the RMA.

Martin Taylor notes that many Regional Councils currently do not have tough enough rules that will protect water quality for future generations.

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“You can comply with the current rules, and water quality will still be going down in the catchment.

“We have no confidence that regional councils are even enforcing the current rules effectively.

“The time and money spent on this so-called ‘Initial Economic Advisory Report’ would have been better spent on developing a plan so that waterbodies which they manage show improvement within a generation.

“This clearly demonstrates why the Government needs to come up with RMA changes and rules that force regional councils to do their job.

“It also shows why the industry-set standards proposed in the Government’s discussion document need to be rejected.

“Only nationally-set standards will deliver the water quality Kiwis are calling for.”

There are several issues with the report:

– The report does not see correcting environmental degradation as bring benefits to the whole country, just costs to farmers.

– It assumes that farmers are never beneficiaries of improved environmental outcomes.

– It uses the impact on the private financial costs to farmers as the measure of the effect of national level policies.

– It assumes that private decisions (e.g. about levels of farm debt) become public policy problems when things change.

– It assumes that current land use and land-use practices are socially optimal and that any reduction in agricultural output is automatically a cost.

A recent Colmar Brunton poll conducted for Fish & Game New Zealand showed that pollution of our rivers and lakes remains a top concern for Kiwis, with two-thirds expecting the Government to put rules and regulations in place to protect water quality.

“Three quarters – 77 per cent – of those surveyed said they were extremely or very concerned about the pollution of lakes and rivers,” Mr Taylor says.

“These results show the depth of feeling kiwis have about the loss of what they considered their birthright – clean rivers, lakes and streams.

“Kiwis expect to be able to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle an issue Kiwis are deeply concerned about. Let’s get this right.”