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New Zealand minister challenged to fight over dirty water

New Zealand minister challenged to fight over dirty water

Dr Nick SmithImage copyright
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Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced a new water quality policy last month

New Zealand’s environment minister has been challenged to a fist fight by a conservationist over the government’s “swimmable rivers” policy.

Conservation trust manager Greg Byrnes posted an advert in the local paper calling on Dr Nick Smith to meet him for a boxing match at a swimming hole, the New Zealand Herald reports. Mr Byrnes says the spot is badly polluted, but still classed as suitable to swimming.

In February, Dr Smith announced a new policy of making 90% of New Zealand’s waterways safe for swimming by 2040, but it included changes to water quality standards. Critics say that means water previously considered not suitable for swimming would be labelled as safe under the new measures.

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Ana Brown

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The advert appeared on Wednesday

The classified advert took a dig at that policy with its wording. “The loser to frolic in the water hole for no less than 5 minutes,” the advert reads. “This is in line with my target to make 90% of all Members of the NZ Parliament believable by 2020.”

Mr Byrne says he isn’t expecting an answer, but took out the ad to make a point. “We’ve got a fantastic country, but we’re fast-tracking it to not a nice place,” he tells the paper. “I can’t imagine what the Canterbury plains will be like in 15 years, unless we do something.”

The likelihood of seeing any fisticuffs is slim, as a spokesman for the minister says he won’t be responding to the challenge. In a statement Dr Smith said that the policy would require 1,000 km (620 miles) of waterways to be improved each year.

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