What improvements in water quality has the Government achieved from its Fresh Start for Fresh Water budget allocations?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

STUART SMITH to the Minister for the Environment: What improvements in water quality has the Government achieved from its Fresh Start for Fresh Water budget allocations?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): We are making good progress in improving fresh water quality in a number of significant lakes. Last week I celebrated with the West Coast community—including Maureen Pugh, our list MP in waiting—the achievement of water-quality targets at the West Coast’s largest lake, Lake Brunner, 5 years ahead of schedule.

Sixty-two kilometres of fencing has been completed, 21,000 plants have been established alongside the tributaries of that lake, from the $200,000 that the Government committed to the clean-up.

It is a remarkable achievement that those fresh water improvements in that large lake have been achieved, like I say, 5 years ahead of when we were expecting to be able to reduce the risks that have been raised.

Stuart Smith: What progress has been achieved from the programme in respect of Lake Taupō and the Rotorua lakes?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Lake Taupō is New Zealand’s largest freshwater lake, and over the last 3 decades there have been increased concerns over nutrient levels.

A world-leading cap and trade scheme on nitrogen has been put in place with $36 million of Government money. The goal was to reduce the nitrogen load by 20 percent, or 110 tonnes, by 2018. I am pleased to inform the House—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister now wishes to continue. [Interruption]

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is no hope for some people, eh?

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Nick Smith, if he wants to complete his answer.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am pleased to report that those water-quality improvements in Lake Taupō have been achieved 3 years ahead of schedule.

I am also pleased to report that Lake Rotoiti is also a lake that has had significant concerns over water quality and it is now in its best condition in 25 years, as a consequence of the Government’s improvement programme.

Stuart Smith: I dare say the Minister does not have any responsibility for the water in this glass—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can we have the supplementary question.

Stuart Smith: What are the next steps in the Government’s programme for improving fresh water quality?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is more to do. The first step is to support regional councils in implementing the new limits framework. That is why Minister Guy and I are investing in the further development of OVERSEER and developing new regulations around good practice management.

The second challenge is around the proposed regulations on fencing stock out of streams, rivers, and lakes. The Land and Water Forum has proposed detailed rules in this regard. We will be consulting on those next year, with the intention to implement them by 1 July 2017.

The third proposal is further investment in fresh water clean-up initiatives, and I will be seeking additional funding in Budget 2016 to make sure that we maintain this positive momentum.