Today’s release of national water quality trends for rivers, while sobering, substantiates Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s decisions made this year to step up its water management activities and broader environmental focus.
Trends for nitrogen were optimistic, showing improvements at between 50-80% of sites, depending on which particular nitrogen variable was analysed. The most concerning patterns were that E. coli appeared to be getting worse at over 70% of sites, and that dissolved phosphorus levels were getting worse at over 50% of sites, based on the last ten years of data.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Group Manager Integrated Catchment Management Iain Maxwell says, nationally, there were more improving rather than deteriorating trends, and admits that seeing so many sites with increasing levels of faecal contamination and dissolved phosphorous does not paint a very flattering picture. Turbidity measurements, caused by suspended sediment in water, are either degrading or sitting the same at over 60% of sites.
“We have recognised a real issue with sediment and other pollutants in Hawke’s Bay’s freshwater rivers, streams and lakes. While we clearly have work to do, these freshwater results vindicate the issues we took to our community in this year’s Long Term Plan, including stronger regulation and incentives for farmers to improve practice.” says Mr Maxwell.
Regional Council Chief Executive James Palmer says, “This water quality data has come out in the same week as the Council resolved to consult on options to fund the future development of Napier Port. This underlines the challenge facing the Regional Council to fund both the protection and clean-up of our environment while continuing to invest in the Port. It makes good sense to bring in other investors to help develop our Port so that we can focus on our core business of protecting our environment.”
The Regional Council has established an integrated catchment programme and reorganised staff to work towards better water quality in the region’s waterways and to address issues on the land.
“These results also reinforce the Regional Council’s initiatives to plant more trees, stop erosion and exclude stock from waterways, because these mitigations will address major sources of E. coli, sediment and phosphorus”.
“We know that improving water quality will require the commitment of landowners, industry and councils as well as individuals.”
The updated river water quality 10-year trend results were displayed today on the Land, Air,Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at LAWA.org.nz. National trends have been generated using data from all of the regional councils and NIWA, making it New Zealand’s most comprehensive river water quality dataset.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will itself prepare the next suite of five-year State of the Environment reports in 2019. This will delve deeper into the state, trend and potential causes of water quality patterns in Hawke’s Bay. These reports will give greater understanding of current performance, as well as whether the Regional Council is on track to meet community objectives.
Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) is a partnership between New Zealand’s 16 regional councils and unitary authorities communities, Cawthron Institute, and the Ministry for the Environment and has been supported by the Tindall Foundation and Massey University. LAWA shares environmental data and information freely through the website - lawa.org.nz - so people can better connect with their environment.
4 October 2018
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