During Andrew Little's ongoing State of the Nation tour around the country, water quality has been raised as an issue by local people again and again. Andrew believes it’s really important for political parties to put their ideas for solving the issue out there.
"Having a dip at your local river or lake to cool down in summer is a cherished Kiwi tradition. My childhood was spent swimming in the Waiwhakaiho River in New Plymouth. It’s a tradition our kids should get to share in too."
Andrew believes that many of the local rivers and lakes are too dirty to swim in safely, and wouldn’t want his son swimming in water that could make him sick.
"What parent would? Clearly, we need to clean up our rivers and lakes. We need to cut the pollution getting into them from our farms and our urban areas."
He states that 'for years, the government has been promising a plan to do that,' and raises the question of when is a clean water plan not a clean water plan?
Andrew doesn't agree with the 'commitment to make 90% of the rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040.'
"They (current government) want to get to that target by weakening the definition of ‘swimmable’. They want to increase the amount of e coli—the bug that gets into water from animal waste and causes serious illnesses like campylobacter—that can be in water that’s graded as safe to swim in."
He states that 'would mean water so filthy that it has a one in twenty chance of making you sick, would be labelled swimmable.'
"Nick Smith says these rivers would be safe. The experts disagree. Water scientists, outdoors groups, and tourism representatives are all saying this plan is bad for New Zealand. Some of the rivers and lakes Nick Smith has deemed swimmable are absolutely filthy."
Andrew is a firm believer that 'people power' will build a movement to help make a stand for clean rivers. Then, they can focus on the real plan of cleaning up the rivers.
The Labour MP believes that can be done by employing young people who are stuck on the dole to do valuable, paid work and get some job experience.
"I want to see those young people out helping to build the fences that will keep livestock out of the water and doing riparian planting—restoring wetlands and growing native plants on the edges of waterways to filter the run-off from farms."
"Alongside that practical work, we’ll need proper standards without the trickery, better monitoring, and accountability for polluters. We’ll need to empower every community—because when my local river is swimmable and yours is too, the whole of New Zealand has clean water."
"Our rivers and lakes are part of our culture, part of our heritage and identity. We need to get them back to a fit state so we, and future generations, can enjoy them."