The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has welcomed the Government’s announcement of the latest round of freshwater reforms.
“The announcement is generally consistent with some of the Land and Water Forum’s recommendations,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.
“For the first time, swimmability is the objective in freshwater management.
“We will have transparency regarding which lakes and rivers are in fact swimmable and which are not. This will vary across seasons and places. Regional councils will need to improve degraded systems with a target of achieving 90% swimmability by 2040.
“The standard for what constitutes swimmable rivers and lakes is comparable with the EU Water Framework Directive. Whether the target date is acceptable will become clear during the consultation phase to follow.
“Other recommendations by the Land and Water Forum have been accepted by Government. These include providing greater rigour on nitrate levels and on macroinvertebrates in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.
“One important issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed is turbidity and sediment – water clarity. The Forum is doing more work on this later in the year.
“Another important recommendation that has not yet been implemented is the Forum’s call in 2010 for the establishment of a Land and Water Commission. This would provide focused oversight of freshwater management. Given the burgeoning complexity of the task we think an oversight entity is urgently required to monitor progress.
“Regional councils are key deliverers of freshwater quality and need careful, independent and rigorous performance monitoring.
“There’s clearly a long way to go before the new policy settings will lead to improved water quality. We’d like to see more urgency with the reform agenda to better align with community aspirations.
“But this latest suite of announcements shows that we are making progress. Whether it’s fast enough for the wider community should become clear through the consultation process.
“These announcements deal with complex concepts that need to be informed by good science. Freshwater reform is a substantial public policy challenge. EDS will be carefully reviewing the discussion paper and will make submissions before the late April deadline.
“But to be fair in our commentary, we need to note that we think this is a pretty good package overall,” Mr Taylor concluded.