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Local rivers considered too small to be swimmable

14 Mar 2017 10:22 am

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According to Forest and Bird, none of the local rivers will be covered by the Government’s proposed new water quality standards.

Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague says that while Government claims that 90 percent of New Zealand’s rivers will need to reach its ‘swimmability’ target by 2040, smaller rivers and streams are excluded from the proposed standards.

New Zealand rivers are classified according to the number of tributaries they have. The first tributary is first order, when two tributaries join they become a second order stream and so on. The Government’s proposed standard applies to orders four and above.

By this measure, Orewa River, the Weiti and Okura Rivers and almost every stream and river from the North Shore to Hatfield’s Beach would be excluded from the need to be ‘swimmable’.

“The streams that are not covered by the Government’s standards are often the places that are popular with local families. While they may be too small for adults to swim in, they are frequently the safe, slow rivers and streams that are popular with families and children to explore and play in.”

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell says there are practical reasons for the omission of smaller streams. “The Government’s 90 percent swimmability target is practical and measureable, and covers waterways over 40cm deep and lakes more than 1.5km in perimeter,” he says. “It is not practical to include smaller waterways in the national targets because they are rarely used for swimming.”

He also points out that 90 percent of smaller waterways flow into rivers and lakes that have specific targets and monitoring requirements.

Councils are also required to improve water quality in all waterways, and they are encouraged to monitor smaller waterways if they are locally significant.

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