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Fresh water

Amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

The Government has amended the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. Amendments include the introduction of a national framework to help regions set freshwater objectives in their regional plans, with national bottom lines for ecosystem and human health. The amendments are effective from
1 August 2014. For more information see the webpage:

National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

Why we need to improve how we manage fresh water

Fresh water is our greatest natural asset. It is crucial to our way of life, our environment and our economy. We value it for recreation and spiritual wellbeing. Māori regard it is a taonga of paramount importance. Whether you live in the city or the country, water sustains the industries that create our wealth.

By international standards, fresh water in New Zealand is both abundant and clean. We have plenty of rain which replenishes our streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater, but it does not always fall where and when we need it. While water is a replenishable resource, we need to manage it carefully because in some places we are approaching environmental limits to what can be used. Because of the growing demands created by a growing population and intensifying human use over the last century, water quality and quantity in New Zealand varies considerably. In some areas water shortages can be felt at certain times of the year.

Making changes and improvements to freshwater management will occur in stages over the next few years. The Government has published a pamphlet, Delivering Freshwater Reform, to explain the state of New Zealand’s fresh water, the need for reform, the progress that has been made to date and what the reforms will achieve.

Freshwater reform 2013 & beyond

How we manage fresh water

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is the key legislation governing the management of New Zealand’s freshwater resources. Under the RMA, regional and unitary councils are responsible for making decisions on the allocation and use of water within their boundaries and for managing water quality. Central government can guide and direct regional councils under the RMA using tools such as national policy statements and national environmental standards.

The Ministry works with other agencies to support local government’s role, as well as providing national direction to achieve the sustainable use of New Zealand’s water resources.

Resource Management Act 1991

Find out more


Last updated: 3 July 2014