New Zealand Labour Party

Cleaning up our rivers

We’re cleaning up our rivers and lakes. After nine years of neglect, our waterways are under serious threat. Many of the spots we used to swim are now unswimmable.

New Zealanders want us to clean up rivers – so we’re getting on with it!

Our rivers, lakes and wetlands, and how we care for and use them, are a fundamental part of who we are. Everyone should be able to swim in their local river in summer and put their head under without getting crook – and to gather kai and fish.

The Government is taking the lead, working together with farmers, councils and the community to stop the degradation of waterways and clean up our rivers and lakes within a generation.

Today we announced our Action Plan for Healthy Waterways.

It’s focused on three things:

  1. Stopping the degradation of our rivers
  2. Delivering a noticeable improvement in water quality in five years
  3. Restoring our waterways to a healthy state within a generation.

Clean water is so crucial to our economy – our primary exports and our tourism both rely on our clean, green image. The world’s consumers are increasingly focused not only on what we produce but how we produce their food.

PM Jacinda Ardern riparian planting in the Kaipara Catchment, Northland

We know what we need to do:

  • We need to reduce the quantity of nutrients and sediment entering our waterways
  • We need to hold councils to account with strict new standards
  • We need to set higher standards for swimming in the places New Zealanders like to swim
  • We need to put a focus on safe drinking water and improved management of stormwater and wastewater
  • We need to plant more trees alongside waterways to prevent erosion
  • We need to better fence our waterways to stop livestock getting into the water
  • And we need to be honest about changing the way we do things in the places where our environment is frankly no longer clean, or green.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We know we can’t continue on like we are and if we don’t fix things now they will only get worse. Our plan will stop the degradation of New Zealand’s waterways, delivering a noticeable improvement within five years, and restore them to a healthy state within a generation.

What does success look like?

  • Each region has adequate freshwater plans in place by 2025
  • New standards to ensure Councils prioritise and protect waterways, requiring a greater range of ecosystem health measures are met
  • Put a stop to the degradation of our waterways
  • Incentives to improve land use reduce the pressure on freshwater
  • There are more trees planted along rivers and waterways and they are preventing erosion and adequate fencing is stopping livestock getting into the water.
  • The environmental performance of wastewater and storm water networks are improved
  • Protections are in place for wetlands
  • New processes and standards for reducing pollution.