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The Ministry for the Environment's (MFE) latest report on fresh water warns that without rapid change in how we treat our environment, New Zealand's identity, wellbeing, cultural values, and economy are at risk (Pg 14).

“Forest & Bird is urging local and central government to heed the warnings in this report. The path we are on threatens our native species and our own wellbeing,” says Forest & Bird Freshwater Advocate, Tom Kay.

“New Zealand's freshwater has reached breaking point. Political and policy leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the changes we need to save our people and our natural world. We need clean water and flowing rivers, and right now our fresh water needs us to protect it.”

MfE's report says our activity continues to degrade and destroy the natural ecosystems that we depend on. Many impacts on fresh water, the report states, are slow to reverse while others are irreversible. The report warns that, under business as usual, increasing droughts will cause food shortages.

"New Zealanders love nature and want to protect it. Right now, we have an opportunity to transition away from environmentally destructive farming, forestry, and urban development practices. The right legal reforms, economic incentives, and regulatory systems can protect and restore our fresh water,” says Mr Kay.

“Irrigated land has increased by 100% in only 15 years. It's is now the single biggest water user in the country, accounting for nearly half of all water taken out of the ecosystem."

“Climate change is going to cause more frequent and longer droughts. Already, soils at one-quarter of monitored sites are drying out, and farmers are becoming increasingly desperate. They need rules that care for our fresh water and ensure it's there for future generations, not quick-fixes that increase supply now but make us worse off in the long run."

"We should be promoting low irrigation farming models that reduce the need for water and create sustainable and restorative agriculture in New Zealand. A future-focused economy would encourage more diversified crops and fewer animals on the land." 

"We can have primary industries in New Zealand that care for people and the planet by shifting away from volume, and move towards increasing the value and quality of goods."

"We need nature to protect us. Restoring our lost wetlands and protecting native forests from development and pests will absorb greenhouse gases, increase water retention, reduce evaporation, and minimise flood and erosion damage."

"This report makes clear that New Zealand urgently needs a major transition away from old models of business, because they are harming us, and they are harming the environment."

About 49 percent of New Zealand’s total length of rivers and streams lie in catchments that have been modified by agriculture (43 percent), plantation forestry (5 percent), or urban settlement (1 percent).

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