The Government is consulting on proposals to amend the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. The proposals 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 National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management 2011 came into effect on 1 July 2011 as part of the Fresh Start for Fresh Water package of reforms announced by the Government in May 2011.
From 1 July 2011, decision-makers under the Resource Management Act (RMA) must have regard to the NPS in consenting decisions.
The RMA requires local authorities to amend regional policy statements, proposed regional policy statements, plans, proposed plans, and variations to give effect to any provision in an NPS that affects those documents.
The freshwater NPS will help drive national consistency in local RMA planning and decision-making while allowing for an appropriate level of regional flexibility. This will support improved freshwater management in New Zealand.
The NPS sets in place some important ingredients of a strengthened limits-based regime for water management and helps clarify the regulatory framework for the reform package as a whole.
Decision-makers on resource consent applications, notices of requirements for designations, heritage orders and applications for water conservation orders will need to have regard to the provisions of the freshwater national policy statement (NPS).
The freshwater NPS inserts two transitional policies directly into regional plans which require councils to consider specific criteria when making decisions on a resource consent application. The intent is that any more than minor potential adverse effects of activities, in relation to water takes, use, damming and diverting, as well as discharges, are thoroughly considered and actively managed (to the extent that an NPS can achieve that) pending the inclusion of limits in plans. These policies apply to activities that require a resource consent until such time as changes to regional plans to give effect to the NPS are made.
Section 55 of the RMA requires local authorities to amend regional policy statements, proposed regional policy statements, plans, proposed plans, and variations to give effect to any provision in an NPS that affects those documents.
The Act requires the necessary amendments to be made as soon as practicable; or within the time specified in the NPS (if any); or before the occurrence of an event specified in the NPS (if any) (refer section 55(2D)).
Policies A4 and B7 (the transitional policies) of the freshwater NPS require regional councils to directly insert the policies, as worded in the NPS, into regional plans (unless they are already included in the relevant plan). Amendments to include the policies should be made promptly. In accordance with section 55(2) and 55(2A) of the Act, amendments to existing regional plans are to be made by local authorities without using the process in Schedule 1 of the Act and as soon as practicable from 1 July 2011, when the Freshwater NPS 2011 took effect. Section 55(2A)(b) of the Act requires local authorities to publicly notify that the amendments have been made, within five working days of making them.
The freshwater NPS took effect on 1 July 2011. The freshwater NPS must be fully implemented as soon as reasonably practicable, or no later than 31 December 2030 (whichever is earlier). Where councils cannot implement the NPS by the end of 2014 they must indentify a programme of time-limited stages (to meet the 2030 date) against which they must report annually on their progress. Any such programme must be formally adopted by councils within 18 months of gazettal of the NPS, and publicly notified.
Any questions about the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated: 8 November 2013