9 May 2011

Government lays down new freshwater policy

10:03 pm on 9 May 2011

The Government says it intends to improve the quality of the country's water by requiring all regional councils to set rules to protect rivers, lakes and aquifers.

But Radio New Zealand's political editor says the new national policy statement on freshwater management appears to stop short of calling for tougher regulations.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says the policy represents huge progress, requiring councils to set clear limits on water quality and minimum flows.

Dr Smith says the statement itself will not set the regulations but he's confident regional councils will.

He says a single national water standard would not work, because of regional disparities.

The Government will also put $35 million over five years into speeding up the building of irrigation schemes and redirect $15 million over two years to areas with historic water pollution problems. That will bring its total spend on improving water quality to nearly $265 million.

Government has 'dropped the ball'

Forest and Bird spoeksperson Kevin Hackwell says however that the Government has dropped the ball in not setting a national standard, because the same arguments will be repeated in region after region, and time will be wasted in the Environment Court trying to sort them out.

Before the statement's release on Monday afternoon, the Green Party warned that the Government was about to weaken water policy.

Co-leader Russel Norman said the Government was too scared to take on the big polluting industries.