Report reveals serious challenges for NZ rivers

The latest national report on the state of New Zealand's rivers reveals many fresh water fish and plants are at risk of dying out due to contamination.

According to the latest report from Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment, 72 percent of native fish and 31 percent of native plants are threatened with or at risk of extinction.

It also shows nitrogen levels are getting worse at 55 percent of monitored river sites urban rivers are the most polluted, with E. coli levels 22 times higher than rivers in native bush areas.

However, phosphorous levels are improving at more sites.

Ministry for the Environment boss Vicky Robertson says more data is needed, but action is needed now.

"We can't wait for perfect data to act. This report identifies some key issues we can focus on for actions."

She says much of the focus has been on "swimmability" of rivers, but that's just part of the picture.

"The implications for our freshwater species are really critical."

The key findings on New Zealand's freshwater (Statistics NZ)
The key findings on New Zealand's freshwater (Statistics NZ)

Reaction to the report:

"We no longer have to demonstrate there's a problem, there's plenty of information to show that there is. Now we need to focus on finding the solutions to the problem," Our Land and Water director Ken Taylor.

"How many more reports are required before the government acts?" Forest & Bird freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen.

"[It] highlights that New Zealand's fresh water challenges vary significantly across the country and that the problems have arisen due to agricultural and urban development over many decades ...It is also a strong endorsement of the government's direction in improving the swimmability of our rivers and lakes," Environment Minister Nick Smith

"What we need most, in addition to patterns, are cause-and-effect relationships. We need to identify causes to understand why some water quality variables are getting worse in some areas, and other variables are improving," Niwa freshwater research manager Scott Larned.

"Industrial dairying and freshwater are on a head on collision course and government-funded irrigation schemes are accelerating the crash," Greenpeace campaigner Genevieve Toop.

"This helps us see where the greatest pressures are and where we are performing well. Today's report confirms our freshwater environment faces a number of serious challenges." Government statistician Liz MacPherson. 

NZN / Newshub.