How Water is Reshaping the Political Landscape
New Zealanders place great value on the quality of their freshwater rivers, streams and lakes for recreation, conservation and food gathering. But over the last 25 years they have become increasingly concerned at the deterioration in water quality, the loss of swimming holes and fishing spots, and the impact of pollution on native and valued introduced species and their habitat. The issue has deeply divided the community and become more and more acrimonious. Recreational and conservation groups blame industrial agriculture for much of the decline, and accuse central and local government of turning a blind eye to the problem and failing to protect the environment. Scientists have added their voices to the debate, but big agriculture and its lobby groups have responded aggressively, denying the problem exists, attacking their accusers and warning government against tackling the problem with tighter controls. Public frustration at the political paralysis and inaction has seen water quality become New Zealanders’ biggest single concern. The issue is now firmly established on the political agenda and one any political party wanting to govern the country ignores at its peril.
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