Improving Freshwater Quality: what do the new policies mean for you?

The government has announced the next steps to improve New Zealand’s waterways, seeking to deliver better water quality within five years.

The document Essential Freshwater: Healthy Water, Fairly Allocated sets out an ambitious two-year programme of work to stop further degradation and loss of freshwater resources and ecosystems, reverse past damage and address water allocation issues.

The government intends to amend the Resource Management Act and introduce a new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management based on the Sheppard principles – the principles outlined in the 2010 draft national policy statement by a Board of Inquiry chaired by former Principal Environment Judge Sheppard, which were not implemented by the government of the time.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management is also proposed.  This will seek to ensure New Zealand’s freshwater resources, waterways and ecosystems are restored to a healthy state within a generation.

Additionally, the government has  set out a new approach to the Crown-Māori relationship for freshwater which will explore, amongst other things, providing access to freshwater for Māori to achieve their fair development aspirations for underdeveloped land.

The only constant is change. The freshwater work programme indicates that (more) extensive legislative and national policy change is afoot in the area of freshwater in the next two years. These changes are designed to achieve much greater improvements in water quality in particular, over a shorter period time than previously anticipated by plan changes developed to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater promulgated in 2011 and amended in 2014 and 2017.

“These policy changes will affect Māori, large water users, those that discharge contaminants to water, and the regional councils that will have to implement these policies,” says planner Sharon Dines.

“It will be also interesting to see how these latest changes will impact the water policy development processes already underway such as Plan Change 1 to the Waikato Regional Plan.”

For more information about how these changes will affect you and your organisation contact Boffa Miskell.

For further information please contact Sharon Dines

9 October 2018