Government to act on Land and Water Forum report

The Government will act immediately on some recommendations of the Land and Water Forum including prioritising action in the most “at-risk” catchments. 

Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor had sought advice from the Land and Water Forum on a number of issues important to the future of New Zealand’s waterways and the primary sector.  

“The Government will act on some of the Forum’s recommendations immediately, while the remaining recommendations will be considered in more detail as part of our work programme,” David Parker said. 

“We welcome the recommendation to identify “at-risk” catchments, ensure plans are in place for those catchments and take action where necessary.” 

While Regional Councils hold a lot of information about the state of catchments in both urban and rural parts of each region, there is currently no coherent national picture.  

“The joint Ministry for the Environment/Ministry of Primary Industries Water Directorate will work with Regional Councils to pull this information together,” David Parker said. 

“As we look at what’s happening in these catchments and what needs to be done, we will work closely with the primary sector, Maori and other interested groups.” 

The Forum was unable to reach agreement on the allocation of nutrient discharge rights in polluted catchments. 

The Land and Water Forum brings together a range of stakeholders consisting of industry groups, electricity generators, environmental and recreational NGOs, iwi, scientists, and other organisations with a stake in freshwater and land management. 

The Forum also recommended some changes to the current regulatory regime, including the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) and the Resource Management Act. 

David Parker has already signalled plans to update the NPS-FM and amend aspects of the RMA. 

Damien O’Connor said the Government was interested in the Forum’s views on good management practice, including the use of farm planning. 

“The primary sector and local government have recently released the Good Farming Practice Action Plan to accelerate voluntary uptake of good management practice.” 

The Forum argues for regulating for good management practices in both rural and urban environments.   

“The Government is already working with both urban and rural stakeholders on good management practices, and will consider the Forum’s recommendations,” Damien O’Connor said. 

“Primary sector industry bodies and local government have extensive work underway on farm environment planning, including auditing and assurance programmes. Farm environment plans will be a key part of ensuring good management practice is implemented and can be verified.”  

Following this final report LAWF has decided to put itself into abeyance. 

“We thank the Land and Water Forum. Over the years it has made a significant contribution and its members are to be applauded for their determination to keep making progress,” David Parker and Damien O’Connor said. 

“We will give consideration to the Forum’s recommendation to set up a Land and Water Commission alongside other options currently being considered for delivering the necessary national direction and actions.”

Editors’ note:

Across New Zealand, water quality is poorer in lowland areas where there are pressures from agricultural and urban land use.

The trend is for nitrogen levels in rivers to increase in rural areas, with the greatest increases in Canterbury, Waikato, Southland and Otago.

 E. coli bacteria and heavy metals are generally highest in urban streams particularly in densely populated areas such as Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

Aquatic insect populations or macroinvertebrates have generally declined, except in the Manawatu and parts of Northland and Marlborough.

The Forum report is available on the LAWF website.