“Swimmable” rivers five times more likely to make you sick

Forest & Bird has condemned the government’s new water quality standards, warning New Zealanders that they lock in current levels of water pollution and allow for a 5-fold increase in the chance of getting sick from swimming in a river.

“Despite an explicit assurance from Minister Smith that the new water standards would provide for human and ecosystem health, he has failed to deliver on either of these things,” says Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague.

Contrary to the overwhelming public concern for the state of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes, the government's announcement today does not require any improvement to our water quality, except for the very worst rivers.

“If your local river is polluted now, the government does not require that its water quality is improved to a standard that is safe for people and the ecosystem that it should support. Instead, all they propose is that the current situation is maintained,” says Mr Hague.

“In fact, they’ve gone further and reduced swimmability standards. Until now, the standard for our cleanest rivers allowed a one in a hundred chance of getting sick. Now, the proposal is that you will have a one in twenty chance of getting sick – and that’s their top standard.

“This means that if a school class visits one of our rivers, at least one child is likely to come back sick from polluted water. What parent will be willing to take that chance?” says Mr Hague.

The Land and Water Forum, of which Forest & Bird is a part, made consensus recommendations last August to the government on the issues of human and ecological health, and these have been largely ignored.

Forest & Bird will therefore be considering at the earliest opportunity whether there is any point in continuing to commit time and resources to the Land and Water Forum.