What progress is the Government making on improving management of fresh water, and particularly in addressing the problem of stock polluting rivers, lakes, and wetlands?
STUART SMITH to the Minister for the Environment: What progress is the Government making on improving management of fresh water, and particularly in addressing the problem of stock polluting rivers, lakes, and wetlands?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): We have been progressively moving to strengthen national standards for fresh water, firstly, with the compulsory regulations in 2009 that require the metering of all water takes; the first national policy statement under the Resource Management Act on fresh water in 2001; and the national bottom lines to maintain or improve water quality that were brought in, in 2014.
At the Bluegreens Forum on 20 February I announced with the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, national regulations that progressively require fencing of stock out of waterways, starting with dairy and pig farms by July 2017, dairy support by 2020, followed by beef and deer farms by 2025 and 2030 relative to the steepness of the country.
The proposal has been developed by the Land and Water Forum involving Federated Farmers and key environmental NGOs, and is a successful product of this collaborative model of resolving environmental issues.
Stuart Smith: How much has the Government invested in freshwater clean-up projects and what improvements in freshwater quality have been achieved?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government has spent $125 million on freshwater clean-ups over the last 7 years. That compares with just $17 million over the previous 7 years.
Lake Rotoiti is one of those projects. That has improved hugely: a decade ago it was regularly having toxic algae blooms; today all the data shows a marked improvement in this popular recreational lake.
I was recently with Maureen Pugh on the West Coast at its largest lake, Lake Brunner. There with Government funding there are substantial improvements in water quality.
The third I would mention would be our largest lake, Lake Taupō, where we are 3 years ahead of schedule in reducing nitrogen runoff into that very significant lake.
Stuart Smith: How does the Government support in investment for water storage projects help towards the goal of water quality improvements?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Water storage infrastructure can have a very positive contribution to water quality.
I draw members’ attention to the Central Plains Water scheme in Canterbury, which involves substituting aquifer-drawn irrigation with reticulated water from Lake Coleridge and the Rākaia River.
The excessive draw-down of water from aquifers and smaller rivers is at the core of Canterbury’s water issues. The new scheme also puts far tighter requirements on farms for nutrient management.
Another good example is the Ōpuha scheme, where in the most recent droughts Fish and Game was transferring fish out of other water bodies, because they were so dry, to the one that actually had the flows that could maintain that aquatic life.
I also note in my own area that water storage schemes will provide for dryland farming to be converted into crops like apples that actually reduce the amount of nutrients.