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National policy statement on water this year

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, June 16 NZPA - New Zealand will have a national policy statement on water but it will not be rushed, Environment Minister Nick Smith says.

Green co-leader Russel Norman has criticised the Government for how long it was taking to progress and the degradation happening in the meantime.

Dr Smith said he would make decisions on the standard later this year.

"I am determined to deliver a national policy statement on water," he told NZPA.

"National campaigned on Government providing stronger central government direction around administration of the Resource Management Act but my view is that a national policy statement on fresh water is not going to be a silver bullet."

He said national environment standards, funding, education, and greater enforcement were all needed.

Dr Smith would wait for a report from the Land and Water Forum, set up last year and including farmers, irrigators, power companies, conservationists, recreationists, Maori and others.

It was due to report back in July/August.

Dr Norman had raised concerns about the quality of water in various rivers and lakes around the country. Dr Smith said progress had been made since National was elected and before the statement was in force.

That included $94 million in the May budget to clean up lakes and rivers, trebling fines for breaches to the RMA and a doubling in prosecutions by local councils.

"It's not that farmers were actually worse last year, it's that the Government has been encouraging regional councils to take a firm line on repeat offenders."

He said by international standards New Zealand's water quality was relatively good.

"I'm not saying that water quality is not an issue, I am just simply saying that the Green Party is exaggerating how big the problem is."

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