‘Cleaning up our rivers and lakes is a priority’ – PM announces $12m for waterways

By Jessica Tyson

The government has announced the next step in its plan to clean up rivers and lakes by investing $12m to join forces with local communities to clean up waterways.

A share of the investment will go towards cleaning up the Kaipara, the largest estuary in New Zealand, which is clogged with sediment and mangroves.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says actions will include riparian planting; wetland preservation and development; fencing streams to prevent livestock trampling at waterway margins; and using the best science to locate sediment hotspots and measure sediment flows.

"The direction of travel is clear: we need to reduce the pollution - nitrogen, sediment, E.coli and other contaminants - from flowing through our cities and farms and into our waterways."

Ardern says half of New Zealand’s monitored swimming sites are not safe for swimming.

"Every New Zealander should be able to swim in their river without getting sick," she says.

The Kaipara

Minister for the Environment David Parker says volunteers, iwi, local government, farmers and school students are all working together to improve the quality of the water flowing into the Kaipara Harbour.

"It's our birthright to go down to our local river in summer for a swim and put our head under without fear of getting sick - and to be able to gather kai from our waterways," says Parker.

The Kaipara contains some of the rarest ecosystems in Aotearoa, namely sand dune, seagrass, freshwater and estuarine wetland ecosystems. It also provides important juvenile habitat for white sharks and snapper; nationally significant seagrass meadows; is a regular orca foraging area, as well as being a nationally and internationally significant wading bird habitat, including for the critically endangered fairy tern.

 

Parker says the government was working with the community to help understand what can make the greatest difference and then what interventions to take, such as where to build and restore wetlands, or where more hillside planting is required to stabilise steep land, as part of this new nationwide programme.

“Those lessons from 'exemplar' catchments like Kaipara will be passed on to others," he says.

"Other government initiatives and funds were also part of the mix, including 1 Billion Trees, the Provincial Growth Fund and the Freshwater Improvement Fund."

Further measures will be rolled out over coming months as the government moves to implement its Essential Freshwater Plan.

This plan will set clearer and stronger national direction for councils on freshwater standards; put in place measures to improve land use such as controlling poor winter grazing practices; and provide guidance on the preservation of precious natural resources, such as remaining wetlands and streams.