New Zealanders are being urged to stand up for the environment and do their bit to protect their rivers and lakes for swimming as time runs out to vote in the local body elections.
The elections are underway now, giving voters the opportunity to choose who will best represent their communities on regional and district councils.
Fish & Game is urging voters to consider environmental issues this election. File Photo.
Postal voting ballots must be mailed in by late afternoon today or handed into council offices by noon on Saturday.
Fish & Game is urging all voters to make an effort to vote to ensure the environment and waterways are better looked after by local bodies like regional and district councils.
Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson says the environment is coming under increasing pressure and he wants New Zealanders to use their votes to make sure it's properly protected.
He believes the Havelock North water contamination crisis shows how important water quality is.
“It's not just Havelock North, though. Throughout the country, water quality is declining and the wider public is becoming increasingly concerned about unrestricted development. The solution lies with regional and district councils which are responsible for making the rules and enforcing them.
“Unfortunately, many of these councils still seem to take the natural environment for granted and are dominated by councillors with only a passing interest in the environment, or are concerned by a backlash from vested interests.”
He is optimistic there can be change, pointing to the results of a recent survey of local body candidates by the Freshwater Foundation.
The survey shows of those candidates who responded, 89% consider local fresh water is not in an acceptable state and 92 per cent want them to be swimmable.
“The survey results show the clean water message is starting to get through and hopefully those candidates will work to improve water quality when they are elected.”
In the last local body elections in 2013, only 42 per cent of eligible voters actually cast a vote.
Bryce says it's deeply concerning.
“Local government elections arguably have a greater impact on the average New Zealander's everyday life than national general elections, and it is worrying the majority of eligible voters didn't bother to take part last time.
“We have joined forces with Local Government New Zealand to try and improve voter turnout.”
He says voters need to get involved.
“People must place a high value on their vote and shouldn't waste it. This year, democracy is giving voters the chance to change things for the better by voting for candidates determined to make a difference for water quality.”