By: Annie Cao
Published: 9/03/2016
The Government is currently seeking feedback on its proposed changes to the way fresh water is managed. A consultation document published last month acknowledges the multitude of pressures on fresh water resources such as the discharge of pollutants, erosion, the effects of climate change and irrigation. Such pressures have led to declining water quality and over-allocation in many freshwater bodies.

Changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS)

Overall quality of fresh water
Objective A2 in the NPS currently provides that the overall quality of fresh water within a region is maintained or improved.

It is proposed that this objective apply to fresh water management units, rather than across a region. This change is seen to align better with the rest of the NPS that relates to fresh water management units. Further, under the proposals, councils will satisfy Objective A2 if they ensure water attributes remain within their current measureable bands under the National Objectives Framework. Where a local or national value does not have defined bands, such as recreational fishing, councils will need to demonstrate that the value is no worse off.

Other proposed amendments to the NPS include:
  • information gathering when considering exceptions to national bottom lines for catchments with significant infrastructure;
  • using the macroinvertebrate community index as the mandatory method of monitoring ecosystem health;
  • applying water quality standards to intermittently closing and opening lakes and lagoons;
  • providing direction on transitional water bodies that do not meet national bottom lines; and
  • inclusion of a purpose statement on Te Mana o te Wai and its importance to fresh water management. 
 
Stock exclusion from water bodies
The Government proposes to introduce rules (via regulation) to prevent stock from entering certain types of water bodies including streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. Certain water bodies are not captured and further details are contained in the consultation document.

Permanent fencing will be required unless there is a natural barrier. Temporary fencing will be allowed where appropriate. Exclusion rules will be rolled out in a staged process, depending on the type of stock and the land involved.

Proposed deadlines for stock to be excluded from water bodies:

(http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/fresh-water/next-steps-fresh-water-consultation-document)

A nationally standardised infringement regime is proposed to enforce breaches of the stock exclusion rules.
 
Other proposals
A number of other proposals are included in the consultation document, including:
  • investigating measures to enable transfers so allocated water and discharges can move to higher valued uses;
  • developing technical efficiency standards to address over-allocation;    
  • developing good management practice standards to help manage discharges better;
  • increasing the ability for councils to recover costs from water users for monitoring, research and enforcement;
  • improving iwi/ hapÅ« participation in fresh water governance and management; and
  • the allocation of $100 million over 10 years to a fresh water improvement fund.
 
How to get involved?
The consultation document can be found here:
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/fresh-water/next-steps-fresh-water-consultation-document

The Government is seeking your views on the questions posed in the consultation document. Submissions close 5pm on Friday 22 April 2016 and can be made online or in hardcopy.

A public meeting is being held at Christchurch Riccarton Park Function Centre, 165 Racecourse Rd, Thursday 17 March, 5.30-7.30pm.

If you have any questions about any of these proposals and how they might impact you, please contact one of the team to discuss on 03 379 7622.

Annie Cao, Law Clerk
Wynn Williams
9 March 2016
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