By Belinda McCammon, Radio New Zealand, 2 May 2016

Leaving two polluted Canterbury lakes out of a government plan on water quality would send a dangerous message, says an environmental expert. Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) is severely affected by nutrient run-off.

The government is consulting on its National Policy Statement for freshwater, and has proposed that its standards should include lakes and lagoons which periodically open to the sea.

The proposal would include Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth in Canterbury, which consistently rank as the most polluted in the country, largely due to nitrogen and phosphorus contamination from dairy farming.

However, the Canterbury Regional Council is against these two lakes being included in the plan.

The council, in its submission on the proposal, said it would be deeply concerned if that happened, as it could mean years of work would have to be revisited with significant costs.

“All this work – the exhaustive scientific assessments, careful deliberation, and hard-won community agreement – would potentially be jeopardised,” the submission reads.

“At national and international levels, the value and credibility of the whole NPS-FM [National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management] regime could also be at risk.”

Lincoln University professor of environmental management Ken Hughey is also the co-founder of the Waihora Ellesmere Trust, a community organisation dedicated to the improvement of the health of Lake Ellesmere.