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The Government’s plan to tackle the complex issue of protecting and restoring New Zealand’s freshwater quality is an underwhelming work programme. It’s about setting up more working groups rather than action, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“This Government talked a big game during the election and made threats against farmers, like suggesting doubling their proposed water tax if farmers criticised them.

“Today’s announcement is just another working group that kicks water issues to touch until 2020. Although it is concerning that ‘coincidentally’ this is when the Government’s Tax Working Group proposals of a series of new environmental taxes would take effect.

“Farmers and growers will be concerned Labour’s water tax is back on the agenda alongside a whole suite of proposed environmental taxes.

“While the Government tinkers and taxes, National was delivering results. Our plan meant more of the 1500 monitored sites were improving rather than deteriorating, a first for New Zealand.

“National put in place a robust plan for improving freshwater quality and funding to assist in the cost of achieving it. Our National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management introduced a new requirement for our rivers and lakes to be suitable for swimming within a generation and established a system for monitoring and reporting.

“The New Zealand economy – and particularly farmers and growers – need certainty to support making investment decisions. It is not good enough that this Government has delayed making any new environmental changes until at least 2020.

“New Zealanders need to know what potential new taxes they will have to pay, what the rules and prohibitions will be in the proposed new National Environmental Standard, and how it will deal with the complex issue of iwi rights and interests.

“Instead, this Government has just kicked things for touch by announcing a work programme and more working groups.

“We need to keep making consistent progress to ensure our waterways are cleaned up in a way which doesn’t come at a considerable cost or loss of jobs.

“We all agree that we would like our freshwater quality to be improving but this announcement today is long on warm intent and short on action.”

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