For a month this summer our group of five travelled the country to document the stories of New Zealanders dealing with destruction of our rivers and lakes and urge the government to prioritise the health of all New Zealanders by raising the minimum standard for waterways to swimmable.
The Choose Clean Water tour was a moving, distressing and motivating experience for us as young Kiwis.
We were shocked by the extent of our freshwater issues and at how desperate New Zealanders feel in the face of them.
No region is unaffected by serious pollution of rivers lakes and precious groundwater.
We could have spent a year on the road and still not have visited all the places where the loss of clean safe freshwater is impacting people’s lives.
Kiwis are being forced to watch as the places they love – their lakes rivers streams estuaries are destroyed in front of their eyes.
These are the places their families have spent summers for generations where they have caught and collected food for hundreds of years.
Almost everyone we talked with us that when they speak up about it – when they ask that the water not be polluted (in many cases their drinking water as well as water they swim in) – they are told their views are extreme or are simply ignored by the local, regional and central government.
Ordinary Kiwis everywhere saying ‘Please don’t pollute our water’ are not heard.
In some cases they have been saying this for a decade.
We saw authorities claim there is no problem.