Thursday, June 08, 2017

Saving our rivers

Earlier in the year the government introduced new targets and standards for fresh water. As with so much else from national, it turned out to be mostly a PR exercise: the standards were literally bullshit, the targets so far off that they were meaningless. Meanwhile, rivers today are making people sick.

Today, civil society came up with its response: a plan to rescue our fresh water:

Political parties have been urged to adopt a "freshwater rescue plan" advocacy groups say can solve the country's freshwater quality issues.

The seven-step plan – jointly announced on Thursday by leaders from tourism, science, health, recreation and environment organisations – is an "unprecedented" attempt to reverse freshwater degradation.

It would involve stopping public funding of irrigation schemes, a reduction in cow numbers, stricter enforcement of environmental breaches, and forcing polluters to pay for their environmental damage.

The plan is supported by some public health professionals, freshwater ecologists and social scientists.

The plan looks pretty good. Firstly, it stops making things worse, by ending government funding for pollution - and it puts the savings straight into sustainable agriculture. Secondly, it proposes reducing currently unsustainable agriculture to sustainable levels - a vital part of solving the problem. Making polluters pay for cleanup will provide a disincentive, while forcing regional councils to report on their enforcement measures will provide a strong incentive for them to actually enforce the law.

Naturally, the government opposes all this (I'm just listening to Nick Smith doing so in Question Time). So the message is clear: if we want clean rivers, we need to vote them out.