I’m writing in response to your article, “Are we really clean and green?” I don’t believe this, due to studies that have shown it’s considered dangerous to swim in most of New Zealand’s lowland rivers, buying illegal logged wood , and air pollution in Auckland. These are only a few of the reason to why New Zealand hasn’t been living up to its clean and green reputation
A report by the National institute of water and atmospheric research showed that because 229 of New Zealand’s lowland rivers have been proven unsafe to swim in, we should no longer say that we are a clean and green country, due to our water. Almost 95% of the lowland streams have levels of faecal matter that surpass Ministry of Health guidelines. Waikato Medical Officer of Health Dr Dell Hood said the study demonstrates children should not swim in most of the country's lowland rivers, and definitely shouldn’t put their heads under the water. Revelation to this sort of level of bacteria raises the chances of contracting gastrointestinal illness. Levels of phosphorous and nitrogen in streams in farming areas increased from 1996 to 2002 because of more rigorous farming, especially dairying. Auckland Regional Council freshwater ecologist John Maxted said the most surprising finding was that bacteria levels in streams and rivers in farming areas were as bad as in city streams, but it was still safe to swim and drink in the bush-clad upper reaches of rivers and streams that were not polluted by cities or livestock. This just shows how much we’re polluting our water.
We all know that we need trees in order to breathe. We inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide; the trees inhale the carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. But did you know that approximately 80% of illegally logged wood coming into New Zealand is kwila? This may not mean anything to you, but illegal logging is driving deforestation and contributing to global warming. So because we are buying illegal logged wood, we’re contributing to global warming. Greenpeace estimates remaining kwila will be gone within 35 years. Kwila grows sparingly - five to 10 trees a hectare. It takes 75-80 years to grow to maturity and has a spreading canopy. It’s not hard to picture the damage caused by choosing to cut down this beautiful tree. Another reason to why we shouldn’t be known as a clean and green country, because of our contribution to global warming.
Auckland makes up a third of New Zealand’s population with 1.6 million people in the Auckland region. Because our city loves cars, our air has become more polluted than the year before. Every four years, the Auckland City Council releases Our Changing Environment, an important scorecard for our greenness, with environmental updates in the interim. One of the main concerns was the worsening air quality. More than half of Aucklanders still drive to work by themselves, which was revealed in our heavy congestion, and the number of cyclist decreased in the past year. Initially, Auckland use to be covered in kauri forest, scrub and wetlands, but urbanized Auckland maintains only 3% of its natural vegetation. Because we aren’t reducing our carbon footprint by taking public transport, or walking to school or work, our pollution levels have risen.
However, an impressive part of New Zealand's green scheme is its plan for Zero Waste. Visitors can see any number of exciting projects, varying from the Junky Funk store in Porirua that sells recycled art supplies, to the motivated plans of the Nelson Council and the Green Bike Trust in Palmerston North. Also in Palmerston North is the "Hot Rot" digester which takes food scraps from local restaurants and turns them into compost. Also, Auckland city’s bill of health report card from 2008 shows electricity use has decreased by 3%, utilization of public transport increased by 9%, and domestic waste decreased by 3.5%.
Even though there are a few positive things about how our environment is now, I still think that we don’t deserve the reputation of being called a clean and green country. It’s false advertising. Do you think having rivers that are unsafe to swim in is clean? Do you think having approximately 80% of illegally logged wood coming into New Zealand is green? I don’t. I think we either need to seriously clean up our act and take this problem of pollution seriously, or we just change our clean and green motto.