Being able to swim in Lake Horowhenua and having rivers safe for recreational activity is a hot topic, according to a new survey - and a local politician has welcomed the results.

The findings were part of a nation-wide Colmar Brunton poll conducted in December that showed New Zealanders saw the state of lakes and rivers as the most important issue facing the country.

Horowhenua District councillor Victoria Kaye-Simmons welcomed the poll results as it shone light on an important issue in her home patch - the restoration of Lake Horowhenua.

"Ideally having recreational activity on the lake as soon as possible is a goal," she said.

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"Once this is achieved, then collecting kai and swimming will hopefully be next for the lake."

"Our environment, especially our lakes, rivers and streams, have been waiting a long to time to be number one on the list of importance."

"In our district Lake Horowhenua has been a project on a high priority list for the past few years."

"There are a number of individuals who have made and continue to make changes to their own daily working lives to help the quality of the water in our streams that lead directly to the lake."

"This is part of a larger plan which has involved agriculture and horticulture practices within the catchment to be looked at, and working to bring everyone together to make positive change."

"It's important to note that we have natural occurring algae bloom affecting the Lake as well as our rivers, which adds to the problems we are already tackling on water quality improvement as a whole."

People were discouraged from swimming in Lake Horowhenua due to health concerns.

Meanwhile, the survey asked people if they were concerned about a range of issues, including the cost of living, health system, child poverty and water pollution.

Pollution of rivers and lakes was the top concern as 82 per cent said they were extremely or very concerned about the issue. Only four per cent said they were not that concerned.

The cost of living is New Zealanders' number two concern, with 80 per cent saying they are extremely or very concerned.

The health system was third with 78 per cent, followed by child poverty 72 per cent,
education and climate change both on 70 percent and housing 67 percent.

Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor says the survey's findings show the depth of feeling New Zealanders have about their rivers, lakes and streams.

"Kiwis are extremely worried that they are losing their ability to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams," he said.

"People see those activities as their birthright but over the last 20 years, that right is being lost because the level of pollution in waterways has increased as farming intensifies."

This was the second year Colmar Brunton has conducted the survey for Fish & Game. Last year, water pollution was in second place with 75 per cent of people expressing concern.

Mr Taylor says big agriculture and local government should take note of the fact that the issue is now Kiwis' top concern.

"While many farmers do understand the need for action and are making the necessary changes to how they use their land, there are still significant numbers who are refusing to follow their example," he says.

"These laggards are letting down the responsible farmers, undermining farming's reputation and exhausting the public's patience.

"They have to be made to change. This means regional and district councils have to toughen the rules, enforce them and stop making excuses for the environmentally destructive and irresponsible farmers in their areas," Mr Taylor says.

"More Kiwis than ever are now worried about their rivers and lakes."

"This opinion poll result shows they are fed up and want action on this issue."