PCE report constructively points to next steps in water reform

  • Nick Smith

The Government has welcomed the two reports released today from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on managing New Zealand’s freshwater reforms.

“This report acknowledges the step change in improving freshwater management through the National Policy Statement in 2011 and the addition of the National Standards in 2014, but it also challenges the Government on the next steps. The report is timely in that it can feed into the work we are doing with iwi leaders and the reinvigorated Land and Water Forum. Our plan is to have a discussion document out on the next steps in freshwater reform early in 2016,” Dr Smith says.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has recommended six improvements to the Freshwater National Policy Statement. The recommendations are:

  • Clarifying the requirement for councils to ‘maintain or improve’ water quality;
  • Providing guidance on freshwater management units;
  • Clarifying the policy around exceptions to national bottom lines;
  • Taking a strategic approach to implementation;
  • Including the Macroinvertebrate Community Index as a measure of freshwater quality; and
  • Including estuaries in the National Policy Statement.

“We already have work underway on guidance on freshwater management units, exceptions to the national bottom lines, including the Macroinvertebrate Community Index and including coastal lagoons. Over the coming months, Ministers and officials will consider all of the Parliamentary Commissioner’s recommendations,” Dr Smith says.

“Officials will continue to work closely with councils and others with an interest in freshwater on the huge task of implementing the National Policy Statement and Standards at a regional level. Next year’s scheduled review of the National Policy Statement will give us the opportunity to evaluate our progress and make sure that the policy is working effectively.”