The Government is being urged to heed the just-released Our Freshwater 2020 report on New Zealand’s environmental performance, with Fish & Game New Zealand saying it is yet another report underlining the poor state of our lakes and rivers.

The report highlights that the state of freshwater is poor and getting worse in most parts of the country:

  • 46 per cent of lakes larger than 1 hectare (1,758 lakes) are in poor or very poor ecological health.
  • 77, 70, and 67 per cent of lakes with upstream catchments dominated by urban, pastoral, and exotic forest land cover respectively are polluted with nutrients.
  • Rivers in catchments where urban land cover is dominant, are polluted with nutrients and suspended sediment. Many are polluted with pathogens and heavy metals.
  • The report also notes that most rivers in rural areas are polluted with concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and E. coli in rivers increasing as the “area of farmland upstream increases”.

Our freshwater 2020 is the latest in a series of environmental reports produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. It provides more in-depth information about the issues highlighted in Environment Aotearoa 2019 and is an update on Our Freshwater 2017.

Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Martin Taylor says the latest analysis makes for sobering reading.

“This report starkly portrays what is happening to New Zealand’s freshwater,” Mr Taylor says.

“Much of it will be of no surprise to New Zealanders who are becoming increasingly concerned at the state of their environment.

“Regional Councils under the RMA have a legal obligation to protect the environment for future generations, and this report shows they have failed to do that.”

This report also shows why the Government has a mandate to stop further decline in water quality.

“We are looking forward to the Government delivering on their Essential Freshwater program aimed at stopping further degradation in water quality and reversing past damage.”

It is also clear that the public support moves to address New Zealand’s water quality issue with three quarters – 76 per cent – of those surveyed saying they were extremely or very concerned about the pollution of lakes and rivers according to a nation-wide Colmar-Brunton poll for Fish & Game New Zealand in February 2020. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, we asked this same question and the concern for water quality has remained in the top two concerns for Kiwis each year that we have conducted this survey.