26 Mar 2012

Environment group to monitor river quality

2:14 pm on 26 March 2012

A nationwide group has been set up to expose so-called dirty dairying practices, saying local government and farmers are failing to protect New Zealand's rivers.

The group of about 40 volunteers, called Environment River Patrol, met for the first time in Wellington at the weekend and will extend local initiatives already under way in Northland, Wairarapa and Manawatu.

Members will actively monitor and report on the state of rivers by posting photographs and findings online.

Spokesperson James Muir, a film director, says regional councils are understaffed and underfunded and often do not have the resources to do their job effectively.

"We aim to be the eyes and ears of our local councils and of our communities.

"We can be the people out there who are taking the photos, who are recording and reporting, and who are also starting communication with the farmers, with our local councils about what can be done to actually turn this situation around."

Council's 'not ignoring problem'

But Local Government New Zealand's spokesperson Fran Wilde, who also chairs the Greater Wellington regional council, says there is justified concern about the state of waterways, but local bodies are not ignoring the problem.

"Local government is working pretty hard, regional councils have a number of initiatives, we're working on our new regional plans.

"They will certainly be much tougher, but one of the issues we face is the time it takes to get a new plan change, so we've been advocating to Government that they help out."

Ms Wilde points out that urban waste water is also a significant source of water pollution.

Federated Farmers warns Environment River Patrol could add to problems if it makes ill-informed assumptions and spokesperson Anders Crofoot hopes the group has a full understanding of the matter.

"It is really unhelpful when people go into areas they don't understand all the parameters and make gross generalisations.

"A practice that might be inappropriate in one area may not really be having an impact in another area."

Federated Farmers says the majority of farmers are being responsible.