Two-thirds of New Zealand's rivers ecologically impaired - LAWA report

Sunday is World Rivers Day but New Zealand has very little to celebrate.

A new report details how nearly two-thirds of monitored rivers are ecologically impaired, meaning animals like insects - an important part of the food chain - aren't living in them.

The same proportion of rivers are contaminated by E.coli.

The worst rivers are found in urban areas, with four out of five monitored urban waterway sites severely polluted.

"Two-thirds of our streams and rivers are unhealthy for things to live in,"  Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) steering group chairman Dr Tim Davie says.

In a new report from LAWA, experts analysed the lack of macroinvertebrates from more than 1500 waterways and found people are to blame.

"Humans have an impact on our water quality and it's really quite major and it's not changing a lot," Dr Davie says.

Not surprisingly, the healthiest rivers are near native vegetation. The Opawaho Heathcote River Network has been planting natives along the Heathcote river, trying to improve water quality.

"If we can respect the river more we have a better chance of improving it. It has a history of being exploited and abused over its life," Opawaho Heathcote River Network secretary Malcolm Long says.

Experts say our waterways need more people like Long.

"Over the next three years regular councils and unitary councils will be engaging with communities and limit setting around freshwater quality and quantity and there's an awful lot of restoration work we've got to do," Hawke's Bay Regional Council CEO James Palmer says.

It's as simple as watching what you pour down the drain.

"It's not just urban or rural, we're all in it together. We all have an impact, we all need to think about the way we live our lives," Dr Davie says.

Up until now, we humans have been the biggest problem; but we can also be the solution. 

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