Fish & Game has slammed a Government consultation document on freshwater, saying it will weaken, not strengthen, existing environmental protection.

The organisation says the document is a "smokescreen" to hide backdoor efforts to undermine the Resource Management Act and Water Conservation Orders.

The consultation document puts forward more than 20 proposals the Government says will improve New Zealand's freshwater quality.

Fish & Game says the it falls well short of what is needed to address the threat of falling freshwater quality.


Chief executive Bryce Johnson says it is an attack on the environment and the value of natural freshwater.

"When you look beyond the rhetoric, this document is all about furthering water-based development at the expense of the environment.

"There is no solid reference to recreation, food gathering or making rivers swimmable," Mr Johnson said.

At a February 3 meeting, Hawke's Bay Regional Council wrote to Environment Minister Nick Smith opposing a Water Conservation Order application for the Ngaruroro and Clive rivers. The application was lodged with the Minister by a group of parties including Fish & Game, Ngati Hori ki Kohupatiki, Forest & Bird, Whitewater NZ and Jet Boating NZ.

Mr Johnson said the recent consultation document was "a win for agriculture and a defeat for the environment".

Fish & Game said it was "shocked" by the Government's plan to "weaken" Water Conservation Orders.

"Water Conservation Orders are the equivalent of National Park status for waterways, but the Government wants to change the law to make them subservient to regional planning processes - the very process WCOs were created to sit above.

"This proposal would be the beginning of the end for Water Conservation Orders, completely reversing the hierarchy of the present law.

"We believe there is a growing frustration among New Zealanders that the clean water they once took for granted is disappearing," Mr Johnson said.