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Urgent Call to Protect New Zealand’s Freshwater Ecosystems

Updated: Jul 10

Today, in their oral submission to the Select Committee for the Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, Tāngaro Tuia te Ora Co-Chair, Tawera Nikau and General Manager, Natalie Jessup highlighted the dire state of New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems, opposing the Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill and urging the government to take immediate action.

Together they presented alarming statistics: 45% of New Zealand's lakes are in poor health, and an equal percentage of rivers are unsafe for swimming. Furthermore, 76% of freshwater fish species, including taonga like the tuna - longfin eel, mud fish, and critically endangered whitebait species, the kōaro and īnanga are at risk.

Firsthand accounts of severe pollution were shared including Lake Rotoroa in Kirikiriroa Hamilton and Lake Waikare, the country’s fourth-largest lake, which has become so contaminated it has a sign, warning that it "could be unsafe to touch". These examples underscore the urgent need for improved water management practices.

Central to their argument was upholding the concept of Te Mana o te Wai, which prioritises the intrinsic value and health of water bodies. This approach, rooted in mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) and aligned with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, calls for the health of water ecosystems to come first.

The importance of long-term solutions, including community engagement and the adoption of advanced technologies like AquaWatch, a Kiwi company providing real-time water monitoring were discussed as well as how ignoring our water issues could have significant economic repercussions and damage New Zealand’s international reputation.

Tāngaro Tuia te Ora, the Endangered Species Foundation calls on the government to uphold the principles of Te Mana o te Wai, ensuring that freshwater ecosystems are protected for the wellbeing of communities and future generations.

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