Latest initiatives to improve our freshwater quality

The Government is putting in place new initiatives to improve New Zealand’s freshwater quality.

All New Zealanders care deeply about the quality of our rivers and lakes. New requirements are being introduced to ensure that water quality in our rivers and lakes improves. This includes funding for clean-up projects and new requirements for regional councils to improve water quality.

These changes will better inform New Zealanders about the quality of water in rivers and lakes when they want to swim, kayak or fish, and about how water quality is improving over time.

National targets for 90 per cent swimmable lakes and rivers

The Government has set a target of making 90 per cent of New Zealand’s large rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040. Following consultation, it has put in place some additional initiatives to support the achievement of the target including:

  • requirements for regional councils to improve water quality for swimming
  • requirements for regional councils to report on their contributions to achieving regional targets every five years.

For more information see the Minister's media release on the Beehive website and the swimming targets web page.

See also the updated Water quality for swimming maps.

Changes to the Freshwater NPS

To support the targets, and improve ecological water health, the Government has made changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (Freshwater NPS):

  • supporting the national swimming targets
  • monitoring macroinvertebrates
  • maintaining or improving overall water quality
  • managing nitrogen and phosphorus
  • considering economic well-being
  • infrastructure exceptions for national bottom lines
  • coastal lakes and lagoons
  • Te Mana o te Wai.

These provisions reflect the feedback received from the public through the consultation process in February-April.

Read more about the changes to the Freshwater NPS.

Funding to improve fresh water

In the first round of the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund $44 million is being invested in 33 projects around the country. Funding for each project is subject to negotiation of deeds of funding.

Find out more about the Freshwater Improvement Fund.

Reviewing the implementation of the Freshwater NPS

Two separate reviews have been carried out looking at how regional councils are progressing towards implementing the Freshwater NPS – one by the Ministry for the Environment and the other by the Land and Water Forum.
The Government’s review consists of a National Themes Report, as well as 16 individual region summaries with more in-depth information on council programmes including progress, successes, and challenges.

Read our report.

Read the Land and Water Forum report on the Land and Water Forum’s website. [PDF, 631 KB].

These reports reflect a position at a point in time. We have since talked with councils and are pleased to see progress made on the key issues identified for improvement. We will continue to work with councils.

Find out more

Cabinet paper: Freshwater: Amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater

Regulatory impact statement: Proposed amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014