Water pollution now public’s top concern

A new poll has found freshwater pollution is now worrying New Zealanders more than any other topic.

The Colmar-Brunton poll was commissioned by Fish and Game and found 82 percent of people are concerned about the pollution of the country’s rivers and lakes, up 7 percent from last year.

The second biggest concern was the cost of living, followed by health.

People were asked how concerned they were about a range of issues, including the cost of living, health system, child poverty and water pollution.

Fish and Game chief executive Martin Taylor said New Zealanders connected deeply with their waterways so it was no surprise to see water pollution as the top issue.

He said the survey results meant the government had a mandate to make significant changes to help clean up the country’s freshwater.

“Kiwis are extremely worried that they are losing their ability to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams,” he said.

“People see those activities as their birth right but over the last 20 years, that right is being lost because the level of pollution in waterways has increased as farming intensifies.”

Mr Taylor said the agricultural sector and local government should now address the concern.

“While many farmers do understand the need for action and are making the necessary changes to how they use their land, there are still significant numbers who are refusing to follow their example,” he says.

“These laggards are letting down the responsible farmers, undermining farming’s reputation and exhausting the public’s patience.

“They have to be made to change. This means regional and district councils have to toughen the rules, enforce them and stop making excuses for the environmentally destructive and irresponsible farmers in their areas,” Mr Taylor said.

Eighty percent said they are extremely or very concerned about the cost of living.

The health system was the third biggest concern with 78 percent, followed by child poverty on 72 percent, education and climate change both on 70 percent and housing 67 percent.