11 Jan 16: Documenting human toll of NZ’s freshwater crisis

The year has begun with two of New Zealand’s major newspapers calling for urgent action for freshwater and a growing number of reports from around the country warning of the dangers of toxic algae growing in rivers and lakes.

Witnessing the country’s freshwater crisis has led a group of four from Palmerston North and Auckland to launch a petition calling for strong legislation, including raising the minimum standard for freshwater from ‘wadeable’ to ‘swimmable’. To gather support, they will spend a month in January and February touring sites around the country to document in short films the toll polluted lakes and rivers is having on the lives of New Zealanders.

Spokesperson for the Choose Clean Water tour, Marnie Prickett, says the impact of polluted freshwater is being experienced all around the country. “Dirty, toxic waterways are really hurting New Zealanders,” she says. “Many of the people we are meeting with have seen what has been lost; their children no longer swim in the local river, it’s harder and harder to find fish, lakes have become so polluted they change colour with huge algal blooms and can’t support wildlife. This is a disaster for us.” The group will also visit sites where communities are working hard to restore waterways.

“New Zealanders value rivers as rivers and lakes as lakes. But we see waterways everywhere being treated in law and in practice as dirty drains. With freshwater legislation under review this year, our priority must be clean, safe water for people and the environment.”

The group, Geoff Reid, Paul Boyce, Kyleisha Foote and Ms. Prickett, range in age from 24 to 31. “We are old enough to remember New Zealand before two thirds of our rivers became unsafe to swim in. But we also have a fair bit of time ahead of us and see that, for our generation and those that come after us, the repercussions of continuing to allow this degradation through weak laws are serious and scary.”
The tour is supported by the Tourism Export Council, Freshwater for Life and Freshwater Foundation. President of the Tourism Export Council, Martin Horgan says, “the motivation for New Zealand to live up to our environmental promise is twofold. First from a sustainable point of view for future generations, but also from a commercial perspective. Our clean green image has worked as a marketing promise in the past, but if we don’t do more to actively live up to it, in 50-100 years’ time, there won’t be anything to market.”
The tour runs from 10 January to 6 February going as far south as Te Anau and as far north as Waitangi. Over 20 short films will be produced in that time and they can be found on the Choose Clean Water website where the public can also sign the petition and share their own story of their local river or lake. The petition has attracted over 1500 signatures in three weeks and the group aim to collect 10,000 by March.

Contact: Marnie Prickett, Spokesperson for Choose Clean Water Tour

Email: marnie@choosecleanwater.org.nz
Phone: 022 161 2634
Website: www.choosecleanwater.org.nz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/choosecleanwaternz
Instagram: www.instagram.com/choosecleanwaternz
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ccwnz