'New deal' for fresh water controls


Freshwater is central to our economy, our environment and our way of life.

Our economy has been built upon its use and it plays a key role in our identity, heritage, culture and recreation.

That has been the starting point for the Land and Water Forum and we always bear this in mind as we explore ways of better managing our rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and aquifers.

Our recommendations must enhance the value of this marvellous resource for all - not just for some at the expense of others.

Farmers have played a central role in our discussions.

Federated Farmers, Beef and Lamb, Fonterra and Dairy NZ have been at the table, along with other primary sector organisations, iwi, power generators, green NGOs and others.

Our report to ministers, released in May, got a pretty good reception from political parties and a wide range of commentators, probably because it was deliberately even-handed and its recommendations applied to urban and rural waterways.

The Forum has recommended The Government should set bottom line objectives for the state of our waterways across the country, taking account of their different types.

They will ensure the mana of our rivers is respected - that they have good ecological health and they do not endanger human health.

Can fish live in them and the creatures that fish eat?

Will river beds not be choked with algae?

Will the water be reasonably clear?

Can people have contact with the water without getting sick?

We think local communities should work with regional councils to set the specific objectives for their catchments. Communities should set the timetables to reach them.

Catchment objectives will reflect the local mix of values and interests, and the knowledge the community, including farmers, bring to the table.

The community will work out which water needs to be managed for drinking, or for trout fishing; where swimming is important, where stock water or irrigation is key -and how to manage the mix between these and other activities.

Regions will then set catchment limits for takes and for contaminants in order to achieve the mix they have chosen.

We recommend collaborative processes to lead the decisions because, based on our experience, we know they help to identify win-wins and produce more enduring outcomes with local community buy-in.

You can see the Land and Water Forum is recommending some big changes from the system but we think our approach will be faster and less expensive.

It gives responsibility to communities to find a way through and to find their own win-wins and trade-offs.

Our report is with the Government. In the meantime, we are working on the second leg of the double - how to manage water within use limits, including through more effective and efficient allocating systems.

We look forward to further constructive and collaborative discussions with the farming community.

- Hamilton News

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