Water quality values queried- Taranaki Daily News

Taranaki Regional Council candidate Sarah Roberts has accused the regulatory body she is standing for of dropping its standards to make its rivers look good.

But TRC director of environmental quality Gary Bedford said Ms Roberts had misinterpreted council information and suggested she read the reports more carefully.

Ms Roberts said the council was deliberately reducing the quality measuring standards for Taranaki water bodies so it was able to give rivers that weren’t up to scratch a favourable rating.

“If they reduce the fresh water quality parameters by lowering them and saying lower values are adequate, then they can turn around and give those rivers a tick.

“It’s like moving the goalpost so the ball goes over.”

Mr Bedford said the council had no reason to lower its freshwater quality parameters.

A national policy regarding freshwater management requires the council to set numeric freshwater limits for all waterbodies in its region.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Science (Niwa) has made recommendations on appropriate freshwater quality limits for Taranaki.

Niwa made recommendations on Macroinvertebrate Community Index (MCI) ratings used by council to monitor river health in the upper, middle and lower reaches.

These recommended ratings are lower than those currently used by council to monitor rivers.

MCI ratings use numbers of freshwater macroinvertebrate communities to report on river health and are used across New Zealand and around the world.

Mr Bedford said the suggestions from Niwa regarding MCIs were not being taken up by the council.

“There are three or four recommendations from Niwa we have chosen not to agree with.”

“That work on using the MCI to define limits is still proceeding and we hope to bring a report to the next meeting of the committee.”

Ms Roberts said the fact the council had received the report containing the Niwa recommendations in its policy and planning committee meeting yesterday was concerning.

Niwa recommended TRC wait until the national objectives for freshwater were completed before setting the standards for managing the region’s freshwater limits.

But Mr Bedford said the council wanted to set the freshwater limits so it could get on with the review of the Regional Freshwater Plan.

“We are already committed to a process of needing to review our freshwater plan which is already more than 10 years old.

“In order for us to make progress on the freshwater plan we need to make progress on the limits.”

The chairman of the council policy and planning committee, Neil Walker, agreed the council should take the lead. 

“It’s a good idea to establish these first rather than having it imposed from somewhere else.”