Labour Party reveals new details of freshwater policy

The Labour Party wants farmers to seek consent before any dairy intensification. Photo: Labour Party

Labour has announced new details of its plan to improve freshwater quality, which would see farmers required to seek consent for dairy intensification.

Water spokesman David Parker made the announcement in Havelock North on Friday evening and acknowledged to Newsroom that some aspects would likely be met with opposition from the likes of Federated Farmers.

The “12 Point Plan for Freshwater Quality” will introduce a new National Policy Statement (NPS) for freshwater management based on the findings of an earlier tribunal chaired by former Principal Environment Judge David Sheppard.

This announcement is not new, having been previously signalled by Labour in 2014, but will sit in response to National’s own NPS that targets making 90 percent of lakes and rivers “swimmable” by 2040.

Water is spreading out from its traditional green home to emerge as one of the election’s main issues, with the public concerned about both water quality and ownership.

On Wednesday the Choose Clean Water Campaign, a lobby group including environment groups such as Greenpeace and Forest & Bird, alongside the Tourism Export Council, laid out its own seven step “freshwater rescue plan”. The steps they are calling for include withdrawing all public subsidies of irrigation schemes and redirecting that money into a transition fund to support a move away from intensive dairying to more sustainable and diverse agriculture.

The most significant part of Labour’s plan is around livestock intensification.

It would ensure any increase in the intensity of land use for livestock was no longer a permitted activity, meaning farmers would have to seek consent.

Labour said this should help improve water quality within five years as well as protect aquifers.

Parker said it was a necessary step, describing some of the dairy intensification as “atrocious”.

Other initiatives in the plan include funding either the Ministry for the Environment or the Environmental Protection Authority to enforce the law by prosecuting breaches of the RMA through Crown solicitors, alongside the ability to reclaim costs from the guilty party and the regional council.

Councils would be audited annually by the Audit Office to ensure they were meeting their freshwater protection obligations.

Fencing would be required within five years of all intensively stocked land near waterways, with setbacks for riparian planting.

Labour would also focus on preventing the extinction of freshwater species, in particular saving the longfin eel by considering whether a moratorium on commercial fishing was required.

Alongside water, Immigration will also be an important election issue and Labour will announce details of how it plans to staunch the influx of arrivals into New Zealand on Monday.