People drought as water discussed

By Mark Dawson

1 comment
Mark Dawson, Editor of Wanganui Chronicle
Mark Dawson, Editor of Wanganui Chronicle

You could get the impression that not many people are interested in water quality. You'd be wrong, of course.

But only six people showed up to a public meeting in Wanganui last week to discuss significant government proposals on how we look after that most precious of commodities.

Coming just days after the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright's report said action was needed to safeguard our rivers, lakes and wetlands in the face of the dairy farming onslaught, you might have expected a few more to turn up.

But this quite significant meeting merited just one public notice in the Chronicle and a spot on the Ministry for the Environment's website.

At the meeting, Environment Ministry director Kay Harrison described fresh water as "New Zealand's most valuable natural asset".

So why didn't the ministry beat the drum, get the message out about the meeting, entice a bigger audience?

Conspiracy theorists can have a field day but, whatever the reason, six people - outnumbered by the governmental contingent - hardly adds up to "consultation".

It is true that some of the issues around water quality are in the "hard basket" - if not the "too-hard basket". Dr Wright's report points up several of these.

One thrust of the ministry's presentation last week was that local government would fine-tune the standards for water quality - and carry the cost accordingly.

There was some argument from the floor, and a riposte from one of the sextet that more resources were needed for iwi, environmental and recreational groups if they were to play their intended part in formulating policy.

Perhaps more resources for publicising public meetings would be a start.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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