Swimmability standards already in effect in the Horizons Region

Horizons Regional Council has welcomed Prime Minister Bill English and Minister for the Environment Nick Smith’s freshwater announcements in Auckland today. The Ministers’ announcements included changes to the National Policy Statement – Freshwater Management (NPS) and a new Freshwater Improvement Fund. 

Horizons Regional Council group manager natural resources and partnerships Dr Roygard says Horizons’ One Plan, which was initiated prior to the 2011 NPS and finalised four months after the 2014 NPS, already exceeds the NPS in many parts. This includes some of the changes announced today.
“Horizons already has a programme of work under way to fully implement the requirements of the NPS over time. The changes announced today will be weaved into this programme,” says Dr Roygard.
“Horizons is well positioned in water quality management, and we are already seeing tangible improvement in water quality throughout our Region over the last decade.

“Trends from January 2006 to December 2015 show efforts being made throughout the Region by many landowners, organisations, iwi, and councils are making a marked improvement in water quality throughout the Region. This has been done through regulatory and non- regulatory means such as the Sustainable Land Use Initiative, the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord and the Horowhenua Lake Accord.
“Many of these initiatives to improve water quality have partnered with Central Government funding similar to the Freshwater Improvement Fund announced today. For example, in a previous funding round our Region received $5.2 million from Government’s Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-Up Fund that contributed to an overall $46 million commitment for projects to improve the state of the Manawatū catchment through the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord.
“Planting of 110,900 native plants along waterways, erecting 474km of extra stream fencing, completing 98 environmental farm plans, 12 fish passage enhancements, 19 community-led projects, and the upgrade of six wastewater treatment plants have contributed to moving 600 kilometres of the Manawatū catchment into a more swimmable category.
“Of the 16 sites in the Manawatū catchment that have ten years of data, over 31 per cent show improving trends for E.coli and no sites show a decline.  Of the 16 sites, 75 per cent also show improvement for total oxidised nitrogen and half show improvement for dissolved reactive phosphorus.
“Horizons are already working on several potential applications to the new Freshwater Improvement Fund to further the improvement in water quality we are already observing in the Region.
“Stock exclusion is also a key part of water quality improvement and a considerable amount has been done on a voluntary basis in Manawatū-Whanganui. The Ministers’ announcement for further regulations around stock exclusion add to the regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives Horizons already has in place. Where our One Plan has less regulation, for example around sheep and beef, the new national regulations will come into effect.
“Horizons has grants for fencing available. Farmers who are interested in fencing or planting advice are encourage to contact our freshwater team.
“The NPS amendments announced today include new requirements to measure and monitor macroinvertebrates. This is already standard practice for Horizons, we currently monitor around 73 sites per year. These results show that 66 per cent of the Region’s sites are good or excellent for macroinvertebrate communities. These results can be found on LAWA’s website, alongside all other regional councils’ data.
“Recognising the importance of water quality at our swim spots and keeping people being well informed about when they are suitable for swimming, we have expanded our monitoring programme to monitor the health of over 80 swim spots every week over summer.
“This information is put onto our website, and is also available on Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa’s (LAWA) ‘Can I swim here?’ website feature. These websites use the national guidelines traffic light system to report suitability for swimming at sites throughout the Region. This system is also incorporated into signage at the swim spots and in Council reports.
“Horizons works closely with the District Health Board, who has the final say about the suitability of swimming at our monitored sites.
“Water quality is just one factor in a number of potential health risks. We ask the public to be aware of hazards such as unstable banks and cliffs, submerged logs, and tsunami warnings and rips at beaches.
"Rightly so, there is and will continue to be public commentary around swimmability. Overall, it is pleasing to see our Region’s water quality results showing improvement and that our upgraded swim spots monitoring programme has allowed the thousands of our community members who already enjoy our beaches, lakes and rivers every summer to make more informed decisions about when and where to swim.
“While it is pleasing to see progress in our water quality results, and we know a number of our initiatives will have further gains in the future, we do recognise there is always more that can be done. Today’s announcements are another step towards improving water quality for all.”