Freshwater is essential to New Zealand’s tourism industry and should be made a government priority, says a leading tourism body.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa says the Ardern government must act speedily on recommendations made by the Land & Water Forum to ensure freshwater ecosystems remain healthy.
“Healthy freshwater ecosystems are fundamental to supporting the natural landscapes that are the primary reason visitors travel to New Zealand,” said the body’s CEO Chris Roberts.
“They are also integral to many tourism activities such as rafting, jet boating, swimming and fishing.”
The government has previously asked the Land and Water Forum to report back on a number of issues surrounding New Zealand’s waterways.
Now environment minister David Parker has agreed to tackle the most pressing of them, saying: “The government will act on some of the forum’s recommendations immediately, while the remaining recommendations will be considered in more detail as part of our work programme.
“We welcome the recommendation to identify ‘at-risk’ catchments, ensure plans are in place for those catchments and take action where necessary.”
Mr Roberts is urging a concerted effort at national level to achieve the improvements needed in freshwater management.
“Our country needs a clear vision and a long-term strategy for management of freshwater that reflects the values we hold as New Zealanders,” he said.
“We all have an active role to play in ensuring we leave the environment in a better state for future generations of Kiwis and our visitors.”
The recommendations of the forum include:
- Government should identify at-risk waterways and ensure plans are in place to halt further decline in quality. Action should be taken where nothing is happening.
- Loopholes that make it possible for decline to continue should be closed and stronger measures taken to protect wetlands and outstanding water bodies.
- Good management practice should be a national requirement for all, including for those managing urban waterways. A range of risky land practices should be controlled by national environmental standard.
- Stronger measures should be taken to address urban impacts on water quality, including regulating to prevent loss of streams and water pollution that can arise from urban building activity, vehicles, earthworks and sediment, and creating standard consent requirements for storm water and wastewater management to ensure consistency around the country.
- Strong government leadership should be accompanied by a new Land and Water Commission to provide the coordination, resourcing and capability needed to make change.
Mr Roberts says the industry is “committed to protecting and enhancing the environment on which it depends” and will lobby the government to ensure the Land & Water Forum recommendations are actioned.
“If the recommendations are successful, they will help secure a high-value competitive advantage for tourism and many other New Zealand industries, as well as ensuring we can pass on a healthy environment to the New Zealanders and visitors of the future.”
The Land and Water Forum comprises some 50 stakeholders including industry groups, electricity generators, environmental and recreational NGOs, iwi, scientists, politicians and other organisations looking to develop a common direction on freshwater management.