Bill English didn’t answer because the Oreti is badly polluted

Last night Bill English was asked by Paddy Gower in the Leader’s Debate: “Which river did he swim in as a kid, and is it now polluted?” Bill English named the Oreti River, but did not answer whether it is now polluted, says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker.
“Sadly, the Oreti is now badly polluted. Its decline has been highlighted by Southland Fish & Game.
“The Oreti rises between Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau in northern Southland and flows into the sea at Invercargill.
“It takes a lot of pollution to degrade a big river like the Oreti, but it has happened.
“Mid-river tributaries like the Otapiri stream – with macroinvertebrate data going back decades – are close to dead.
“Appalling silt runoff from winter grazing pours into the middle reaches.
“Nutrient loads – especially nitrates – from intensive dairying are high in the middle and lower reaches.
“Large stretches of the river are now unsafe for swimming.
“The river flows into the sea in what is called the New River estuary, right next to Invercargill. Here it is now gumboot deep with silts. It used to have amongst the largest cockle beds in the country. They are dead, smothered with deep and sometimes smelly silt.
“The pollution extends out to sea. Filter feeders struggle to filter out the fine particles as they feed. The turbidity is reducing photosynthesis, so that seaweed does not grow well at depth and fish have less to eat.
“It is a tragedy. The Oreti is now badly polluted and that is why Bill English did not answer Paddy Gower’s question,” says David Parker.

Photographs of the Oreti River attached


5th  September 2017 Media Statement


Government must come clean on water

News that the National Government is secretly working behind closed doors on its own water charging schemes shows their utter hypocrisy on this issue, says Labour’s water spokesperson David Parker.

“They have been carping on about Labour’s plan for a royalty to go to the regions and help pay to clean up our rivers. National have scaremongered, when it’s clear that the Ministry for the Environment’s Technical Advisory Group has been working on their own secret agenda for them, which will not be released until after the election.

“This morning the ‘Politik’ site says the National Government’s investigation is considering ‘pricing mechanisms to improve efficiency’ on water supply. This is hypocrisy. The National Government is hiding its plan.

“Yesterday’s Water New Zealand survey shows that more than 77 per cent of New Zealanders believe there should be a royalty when water is used for agriculture and horticulture. The survey of 5,000 New Zealanders also revealed that nearly 89% of Kiwis want to see a charge for water bottlers.

“There is clearly an appetite for change to how we manage clean water.

“National’s scaremongering is made is made worse by their deceit, which has to end. They should disclose their plan.

“Our failure to clean up our rivers is now having an international impact. This week the Wall Street Journal was critical of how our polluted rivers undermine our Clean Green image.

“The Wall Street Journal reports that seven out of New Zealand’s ten major rivers are considered potentially unsafe for swimming. This must be undermining tourism and primary produce exports. The Wall Street Journal puts the blame mainly on the growth in intensive dairying.

“It is the birth right of all Kiwis to have their rivers clean enough to swim in. If those using or polluting water for commercial profit don’t contribute to the cost of the clean-up, it will fall on pensioners and other taxpayers.

“It is urgent that we clean up New Zealand’s rivers and lakes,” says David Parker.

Attached: Wall Street Journal story

17th August 2017    Media Statement

New Zealanders deserve better than scaremongering over water

New Zealanders need to hear from National about how they will fund the clean-up of our rivers and lakes for future generations. Instead, National has broadened its scare-mongering, says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker.

“Everyone knows our water is too polluted. We know we need to stop pollution getting into our rivers and lakes, so that future generations can enjoy their birth-right to swim in our rivers. The fair way to fund that work is for commercial consumers of water, who profit from access to clean water, to contribute via a clean water royalty.

“National doesn’t want commercial users of water to contribute to the cost of the damage. Instead, National wants pensioners and other taxpayers to pay the cost.

“It’s sad that National are sinking to such low levels in their defence of water polluters.

“First, they made false and outrageous claims about price increases and, then, Chris Finlayson falsely alleged this will reopen full and final Treaty settlements. He is wrong, as Sir Edward Durie – head of the Maori Council, and whose former roles include High Court judge and Chair of the Waitangi Tribunal – has said.

“Labour will respect iwi interests in water and work with them to clean up our water. That’s good for every New Zealander. Minister Finlayson’s “dicing with death” comment deliberately seeks to create tensions over the Treaty. It is sad that, after many years as good service as Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Mr Finlayson has chosen to act this way for political convenience.

“Mr Finlayson knows the settlements with iwi include an express clause stating that freshwater claims are unresolved. The current Ngati Tuwharetoa settlement currently before Parliament Deed of Settlement expressly states does not affect any rights of iwi and hapū in relation to water in clauses 4.17 to 4.20.

“Mr Finlayson also knows the settlements with other iwi – including Ngai Tahu and Tainui – are the same. Each includes a similar clause.

“National’s latest scaremongering can’t cover over the fact that if water users don’t pay a royalty to contribute to cleaning up our rivers, pensioners and working people will foot the bill through their taxes.

“After nine years of worsening pollution and no action, New Zealanders deserve a responsible conversation on how we repair our rivers and lakes for future generations,” says David Parker.

14 August 2017 Media Statement

National must rule out retrospective override for Ruataniwha

National must categorically rule out using retrospective legislation to override the Supreme Court’s decision that the land swap of conservation land flooded by the proposed Ruataniwha Dam was illegal, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney General David Parker.

“Having not got their own way with the nation’s highest court, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Conservation have arrogantly said they will look to change the law after the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal decision.

“This threat of legislation with retrospective effect is constitutionally outrageous, regardless of it happening before or after the election. It is a pity the Minister cannot show some humility, admit the mistake, and apologise.

“New Zealanders who rightfully say the land swap decision was invalid won a fair decision, despite the Government using all of the resources of the State to oppose them. The decision of New Zealand’s highest Court must now be respected.

“To rob those who won by now changing the law retrospectively would be a return to the Clyde Dam empowering legislation and the disastrous National Development Act of Muldoon’s National Government.

“National’s broader claim that the law will need to be changed is also wrong. Their ignorance is astounding. It is nonsense to suggest that other earlier land swaps are now illegal.

“Even if they were, no court would order that road realignments now in place be reversed, as the Minister implied on radio this morning. It is also nonsense to suggest that future land swaps would be illegal just because this one is.

“The Ruataniwha Dam bears many similarities with the Clyde Dam. The Government has wasted millions on its planning and seems hell-bent on seeing it built regardless of the consequences for the environment and the law.

“The adverse environmental consequences are clear and like the Clyde dam, it is being built on an earthquake fault.

“The Clyde dam was an expensive “Think Big” mistake that only happened because of constitutionally bankrupt retrospective legislation.

“Let’s not make the same mistake again. After nine years, it is plain for everyone to see we need a fresh approach,” says David Parker.


7 July 2017 Media Statement

NIWA report proves National’s trickery re swimmable rivers

National have a slacker standard for swimmable rivers than was the case prior to their recent so-called Clean Water amendment to the National Policy Statement (NPS), says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker.

“The table 11 on page 25 of the NIWA report shows that rivers previously classified as unswimmable are now classed swimmable.

“The description that follows the table admits this, saying ‘the number of sites that would be classified as swimmable will vary depending on the approach taken as to how swimmability is defined’, and then says on page 26 that the 2017 proposal for swimmable is “more permissive” than the 2014 NPS. More permissive means lower water quality rivers are reclassified as swimmable, as table 11 shows.

“Nick Smith has denied this, and is now shown to be wrong.

“It’s time to stop the trickery. Labour will regulate to clean up our rivers to enable Kiwis to swim in their local river in summer, without getting ill and without getting out covered in slime. If your local river and my local river are clean, then all our rivers will be clean. It’s not too much to ask,” says David Parker.

11 May 2017 Media Statement

Urgent action needed on dirty rivers

The Our fresh water environment 2017 report re-confirms that we need urgent action to clean up our rivers. Meanwhile, National is standing by as our rivers get even more polluted, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.

“This report is yet more evidence that many of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes are in a bad way.

“Dairy cow numbers have increased by a million since National took office and now many New Zealanders can’t swim in their local river.

“Nitrogen pollution is getting worse. Many of our rivers are unsafe to swim in. Our native fish species are in trouble. Without change, things will get worse.

“We have reached, and in many places exceeded, the limits of what our environment can bear.

“Just because farmers were allowed to pollute last year doesn’t mean they should pollute this year or the next.

“We’ve got to return to Judge Sheppard’s National Policy Statement (NPS) that said increases to land use intensity causing more nutrient and faecal contamination to our waterways should no longer be a permitted activity.

“National ignored these recommendations and spiked the NPS. Its weak substitutes have not worked.

“Rules need to be more strictly enforced against those who are acting illegally. Bad farming practices like ‘spray and pray’, and cows in rivers are happening because there’s rarely any consequence to breaching even the lax rules we have.

“The Environmental Protection Agency needs to be adequately funded so it can prosecute farm directors who are acting illegally.

“There must be nutrient caps for each catchment based on science and allocated fairly.

“It’s a Kiwi birthright to swim in your local river. If your local river and my local river are clean enough to swim in, then all our rivers will be clean. It’s not too much to ask,” says David Parker.
27 April 2017 Media Statement

Maori Party error own goal on GM

The Maori Party amendment to the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill does not achieve what they say it does on genetic modification, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.

“Their amendment relates to the new powers given to the Minister to over-ride local democracy by knocking out or amending rules in District or Regional RMA plans.

“The Maori Party amendment was supported by all parties in Parliament last night except the Act Party, because it does narrow the Minister’s over-ride power, but only a little.

“It does this by saying the regulation cannot be used to knock out plan rules prohibiting GM ‘crops’.

“The problem is that “crops” do not include GM grasses or pasture.

“This was exposed last night in Parliament when Minister Nick Smith confirmed this in the debate when he correctly quoted the dictionary meaning: ‘crops’ are the produce of cultivated plants such as cereals, vegetables or fruit.’

“The Minister is right. Thus ‘crops’ do not include GM grass.

“Despite Maori Party assertions to the contrary, they are voting for a law which opens the door to GM grasses and pastures. This is widely opposed in many communities, especially by Maori.

“Maori Party support was obtained on the back of this ineffective amendment.

“The RLA Bill is deeply flawed in many different ways. They should be held to account for backing this flawed law, which will only pass with their support,” says David Parker.


5 April 2017 Media Statement