Ingrid Jellick

As chair of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Doug Leeder is focused on improving water quality.

"It doesn't matter whether you live in a rural environment or you live in an urban environment, water use, water quality and water allocation are going to become the hot topics of the day that everybody needs to get their head around," Mr Leeder said.

Mr Leeder is also a dairy farmer. And while one of the main sources of water pollution in New Zealand is animal excrement, he maintains rural water quality is "pretty good".

"Farmers need to understand the way in which land use can be done in a sustainable way, and utilise a whole lot of mitigations that actually help what we refer to as diffuse discharge from land.

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"It's not just a rural problem, it's an urban problem as well.

"So people living in town washing their cars on the grass verge, on the concrete, all the soaps and toxins end up going into the wastewater system, equally have to understand this issue about discharges as do those people farming the land," he said.

And he says we can't expect things to improve overnight. His council is not expecting to reach its water quality goals until 2025.