LAST year was dominated by headline after headline telling us how our water quality is declining. The headlines focused on agricultural sources contributing to increased nutrients and bugs in our waterways. Fair enough as a country we cannot afford to live beyond our means when it comes to our environment.
The summer holidays take people out of their usual environment, time to play, time to read and time to swim. It's also a slow news time, so media tend to be hungry for anything that will make a good headline. So it was surprising that, when beaches closed in Nelson and Wellington due to sewage and storm-water overflows, it did not hit the national headlines.
It is little wonder that the impact of our inhabitation of Aotearoa on water quality is divisive, as it would appear that there is not one rule for all, when it comes to what we are willing to accept and what we are not. Why wasn't the media all over the story of beaches being closed in our capital city, when they are happy to pounce on elevated nitrogen levels in a river, even if it is not closed for swimming?
The key piece of legislative work the Government is considering this year is its response to the extensive recommendations of the Land and Water Forum on water quality. Already, the reality of what it will take our larger urban centres to meet new water quality standards is sheeting home. The Christchurch City Council made submissions to the Canterbury Regional Council's land and water plan, seeking an exemption from the standards for urban waterways. The Otago Regional Council has received some equally strong submissions from its urban councils, opposing their water quality limits.
All New Zealanders have a strong responsibility to make sure we continue to enjoy good water quality, urban and rural alike.
The sooner we support each other and champion those who are doing it well, the better.
One of my wishes for 2013 is that good water quality stories hit the front pages first.
Matt Harcombe is the Federated Farmers South Island regional policy manager.