Freshwater reforms 2016

This page has information on the Government’s proposed next steps to improve the management of fresh water in New Zealand. 

About the proposed reforms

The proposed reforms aim to improve the management of fresh water to deliver better environmental and economic outcomes and better outcomes for iwi. 

Summary of key proposals

Fresh water and our environment

Amend the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management to improve direction on:

  • exceptions to national bottom lines for catchments with significant infrastructure

  • using the Macroinvertebrate Community Index as a mandatory monitoring method

  • applying water quality attributes to intermittently closing and opening lakes and lagoons

  • what it means to ‘maintain or improve overall water quality’.

Exclude stock from water bodies through regulation. 

Economic use of fresh water Require more efficient use of fresh water and good management practice.
Iwi rights and interests in fresh water

Strengthen Te Mana o te Wai as the underpinning platform for community discussions on fresh water.


Improve iwi/hapū participation in freshwater governance and management.


Better integrate water conservation orders (WCOs) with regional water planning and allow for increased iwi participation and decision-making on WCOs.

Freshwater funding Set up the ‘Next Steps for Freshwater Improvement Fund’.

Consultation on the proposed reforms was held from 20 February to 22 April 2015. The document Next steps for fresh water sets out the proposals in more detail and provides background information. 

Next steps

The Government is considering the submissions on the proposals and will use the feedback to inform further development of specific policy options. The Government expects to hold a second round of consultation on the specifics of some of these options later in 2016.