Development of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

This page outlines the development of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the two suites of amendments made in 2014 and 2017.

Freshwater NPS introduced in 2011

In 2006, the Minister for the Environment prepared a national policy statement for the management of fresh water. This was referred to a Board of Inquiry in 2008. The Board heard submissions on the policy statement and prepared report of recommendations for the Minister (see the bottom of this page for a link to this report).

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (Freshwater NPS) was introduced in 2011. It was updated and replaced in 2014, and amended in 2017.

See Timeline of freshwater management reforms for further background information.

Diagram of the Freshwater NPS 2014 development process

2014 changes

The Freshwater NPS 2011 was amended and replaced in 2014 to introduce the national objective framework as a way to help regional councils apply the requirements of the Freshwater NPS in a consistent way across the country.

National framework for setting freshwater objectives

The national objectives framework specifies the process regional councils must use to set freshwater objectives. Objectives must, as a minimum, be set for two compulsory values: ecosystem health and human health for recreation. Some national bottom lines, based on robust science, have been adopted for the compulsory values. Objectives must be set above the national bottom lines.

In 2012, the stakeholder-led Land and Water Forum released their Second Report, which raised the idea of a national framework to help councils set freshwater objectives in their regional plans. The Government explored the idea in its March 2013 paper ‘Freshwater reform 2013 and beyond’ and proposed amendments to the Freshwater NPS to require councils to follow this process later that year.

Freshwater reform 2013 and beyond

Proposed amendments to the NPS-FM 2011: A discussion document (November 2013)

Land and Water Forum website

Science advice on the framework

The attributes (eg, total nitrogen, nitrate toxicity, periphyton) and their associated national bottom lines in the Freshwater NPS were selected on the advice of specialist science panels.
The scientists took part in a range of expert panels to consider:

  • the critical attributes of water quality for which objectives need to be set
  • the critical levels for each attribute
  • an appropriate level to set a bottom line before an ecosystem tipping point.

The recommendations from the expert panels were then considered by a Science Review Panel. The Science Review Panel provided advice to officials on attributes that could be included in the Freshwater NPS in the 2014 amendments and those which would need further development for later inclusion. The Science Review Panel also provided advice on the robustness of the science approaches that were used.

Science panel members [PDF, 49 KB]

Science panel members [DOC, 98 KB]

NPS-FM supporting scientific and economic impact papers

Water users’ advice

The proposed attributes were considered by a reference group of water users and managers which provided advice to officials on their workability.

National objectives framework reference group members [PDF, 223 KB]

National objectives framework reference group members [DOC, 40 KB]

Report of the national objectives framework reference group (October 2012) [PDF, 1.1 MB]

2017 changes

In 2017 the Government amended the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (Freshwater NPS) so that it would:

  • support the national swimming targets
  • increase direction for Te Mana o te Wai in freshwater management
  • provide direction for monitoring macroinvertebrates, managing nitrogen and phosphorus, and considering economic well-being
  • require overall water quality to be maintained or improved within a freshwater management unit

Other changes were made to clarify direction for exceptions to national bottom lines and relevant attributes for coastal lakes and lagoons.

Clean water: 90% of rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040 (discussion document)

Marked-up version of the Freshwater NPS showing the amendments made in August 2017.

More to come

There are still gaps in the framework. More work is being done on developing further attributes (eg, sediment for ecosystem health in rivers).

Find out more

Cabinet papers and related material