Govt announces next stage of freshwater reformsPrimary Industries Environment
Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have today released proposals for improving freshwater management, including national water standards.
“Ensuring an on-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today,” Ms Adams says.
“It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”
“This is an issue that affects us all. We need to work together to create a better way of managing what is New Zealand’s most important natural resource,” Mr Guy says.
In 2011, the Government required regions to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers.
In March a document was released outlining the Government’s proposed plan of action for improving water quality and the way freshwater is managed.
In August, the Government announced its intention to create a collaborative planning option for the development of a freshwater plan within a community.
Today, the Government is releasing a document to seek the public’s feedback on more detailed proposals for amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
The discussion document seeks feedback on the Government’s proposals for:
- a national framework to support communities setting freshwater objectives
- explicit recognition of tangata whenua values for freshwater
- ecosystem and human health as compulsory values in regional plans
- bottom lines for ecosystem and human health that apply everywhere, and
restricted grounds for exceptions to bottom lines; and
- requiring councils to account for all water takes and contaminant discharges
More than 60 freshwater scientists from public, private and academic sectors across New Zealand have come up with numeric values proposed for national bottom lines for freshwater.
Ministers have not been involved in the scientific detail of the framework.
The numbers have also been tested with a reference group of water users to make sure they are practical. Further water quality attributes and numbers will be added over time.
The framework will be underpinned by good information that supports regional decision-making, including the environmental, social and economic impacts of any proposed objectives and limits.
“As a minimum, councils still have to maintain or improve water quality, but we are proposing a safety net in national bottom lines for ecosystem and human health,” Ms Adams says.
“These are to safeguard aquatic life in our water bodies, and ensure we can enjoy our water for activities like boating and wading.”
“We expect people to debate these bottom lines – that’s the nature of science - but the freshwater scientists’ numbers we are releasing today also reflect the important role of value judgements in choosing how we use our fresh water,” Mr Guy says.
“If we can get agreement now, there will be less arguing and litigation over regional plans and resource consent applications. It will give people more certainty about what is allowed and what is not, and all this will save time and money.”
The discussion document, the draft amended National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and supporting documents and studies are available at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/water/freshwater/nps-freshwater-management-amendment-proposals.html
Officials from the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Primary Industries will be holding public meetings and hui around the country during November and December. Dates and venues will be posted on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.
The Government has also published a video scribe outlining its vision for freshwater management in New Zealand. It is available at: http://youtu.be/lbxrIYrWe0Q