Freshwater management has been a long-standing political hot potato. Regional councils around the country have been busy ensuring they fulfil their functions in relation to water quality and water quantity, and implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) (in its various forms) since its introduction in 2011. On 5 September 2019, the Government released its “Action for Healthy Waterways” discussion document for consultation.
2018 produced and foreshadowed a number of important changes in the resource management and environmental space. 2019 looks set to provide a raft of further changes. Most people are back at work now and gearing up for the year ahead – what better time to reflect on what 2018 brought and look ahead at some of the things we know are coming in 2019.
The Government has announced its plan to tackle water quality issues in New Zealand, with a focus on stopping further degradation and loss, reversing past damage, and addressing water allocation issues.
Following the August 2016 outbreak of campylobacteriosis in Havelock North, the Government established an inquiry to investigate and report on the outbreak. The Stage One Report was released on 8 May 2017 and identified what happened, the cause of the outbreak and provided an assessment of the people and agencies responsible for providing safe drinking water to Havelock North.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 provides national direction for the management of freshwater under the Resource Management Act 1991.
On 7 August 2017, the Government announced amendments to the NPSFM which will come into force on 7 September 2017.
This decision of the Environment Court concerns an application for various declarations made by Wellington Fish and Game Council and the Environmental Defence Society Inc, that the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council has been failing to correctly implement the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Plan.
Today the Government announced a suite of further freshwater management reforms. The headline change is a new target that 90 per cent of New Zealand's lakes and rivers meet swimmable water quality standards by 2040.
A recent hikoi and associated petition presented to Parliament this week highlights the increasing focus being given to the management of the quality of freshwater in New Zealand.
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.
Over the last ten years, the focus in Canterbury has been on getting water. Now that water has been allocated, the focus is now moving to securing the reliability of that water and controlling the discharges associated with its use. This new focus is wider than just dairying, and includes the use of land for any primary production.
In a jointly released initiative, the Minister for the Environment Amy Adams and Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy have called for submissions on New Zealand's freshwater management regime.
Many local authorities around the country are in the process of reviewing regional and district plans, prior to notifying proposed new versions of those documents. Interested persons will be able to lodge submissions and further submissions on the proposed plans.
The Central Plains Water saga - all the way up to the Supreme Court, and this is just the preliminary
skirmishing. The hearing of CPW's application to take water for irrigation, by the Council's commissioners,
has not yet concluded - so appeals on the actual application are still just a twinkle in the parties' eyes.