People & Power

New Zealand: Polluted Paradise

People & Power investigates New Zealand’s water pollution problem as regional elections gear up.

Click here to watch part one.

New Zealand’s pristine and abundant rivers and lakes have long been central to its proud reputation as a land of breath-taking natural beauty – and fundamental to a clean, green, outdoorsy brand that’s used to attract millions of foreign visitors every year. 

But are its waterways really as sparkling and bountiful as the tourist ads suggest?

It seems not.

READ MORE: What is the problem with New Zealand’s water sources?

Although the issue hasn’t attracted huge global attention, for some years now campaign groups such as Greenpeace have been ringing alarm bells about the deteriorating quality – and curiously diminishing volume – of New Zealand’s fresh water. They say these problems are both directly attributable to the country’s most profitable industry and in danger of being exacerbated by government-backed projects in support of that industry.

READ MORE: Why are New Zealand’s waters so polluted?

People & Power asked filmmaker Naashon Zalk to find out more.

His two-part investigation raises troubling questions about what can happen when a nation’s desire for economic growth, however understandable and justifiable it may be, takes undue precedence over the environment.

Part one


Editor’s note: On August 30, as these two films were being prepared for broadcast, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council announced it was withdrawing support for the Ruataniwha dam, leaving the project’s future in some doubt. Nevertheless, with the current New Zealand government and many in the powerful dairy industry continuing to be strong supporters of irrigation programmes, it may be too soon yet to write the scheme off entirely.