Skip to main content.

National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

This page provides information on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

 

Summary of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

A short summary of what the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS or NPS-FM) is, what it does and the changes from what was proposed is provided in the following document:

The role of the NPS

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management supports improved freshwater management in New Zealand. It does this by directing regional councils to establish objectives and set limits for fresh water in their regional plans. Recent amendments to the NPS give regional councils specific direction on how this should be done.

These amendments are included in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM 2014) which is effective from 1 August 2014. Until then the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 continues to apply.

Note: the NPS-FM does not apply to geothermal or coastal water.

What the NPS requires

The NPS-FM 2014 requires regional councils to recognise the national significance of fresh water for all New Zealanders and Te Mana o te Wai (the mana of the water).   

It directs regional councils to:

  • safeguard fresh water’s life supporting capacity, ecosystem processes, and indigenous species including their associated ecosystems
  • manage freshwater bodies so people’s health is safeguarded when wading or boating (a minimum requirement)
  • maintain or improve the overall quality of fresh water within a region
  • protect the significant values of wetlands and outstanding freshwater bodies
  • require more efficient use of fresh water by end users
  • avoid the over allocation of water takes and inputs of contaminants, and to phase out existing over allocation
  • implement the national objectives framework by:
    • setting freshwater objectives according to a specified process (ie, the national objectives framework) and to meet community and tāngata whenua values which include the compulsory values of ecosystem health and human health for recreation
    • using a specified set of water quality measures (attributes) to set the freshwater objectives (an objective can only be set below national bottom lines in specified circumstances)
  • set limits which allow freshwater objectives to be met (eg, a total catchment contaminant-load or a total rate of water take)
  • put in place measures to better account for water takes and sources of contaminants, and measure achievement towards meeting objectives
  • take a more integrated approach to managing fresh water and coastal water
  • fully implement the National Policy Statement by 2025.

Rights of freshwater users

Everyone has a legal right to participate in resource management planning processes and communicate the environmental outcomes they want for water resources. Such information helps regional councils establish water flow levels, allocation limits, and water quality limits.

How the NPS affects resource consent applications

Decision-makers (regional councils, the Environment Court, boards of inquiry and special tribunals) are required to have regard to the provisions of the NPS in consenting decisions and to give effect to the provisions in their regional plans. Consenting decisions include decisions on resource consent applications, notices of requirements for designations, heritage orders and applications for water conservation orders.

Amending plans to give effect to the NPS

Policies A4 and B7 (the transitional policies) of the 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 Resource Management Act 1991(RMA), these amendments that insert policies A4 and B7 are to be made without using the process in Schedule 1 of the Act.
Regional councils must amend their regional policy statements and regional plans to give effect to all other objectives and policies in the NPS as soon as practicable, using the Schedule 1 process. See section 55 of the RMA for more information.

Section 55 of the Resource Management Act [New Zealand Legislation website]

Timeframe for implementation

The NPS requires that it must be fully implemented as soon as reasonably practicable or no later than 31 December 2025 (whichever is earlier). When regional councils cannot implement the NPS by the end of 2015 they must identify a programme of time-limited stages to meet the 2025 date and report annually on their progress. Any such programme must be formally adopted by regional councils within 18 months of gazettal of the NPS-FM 2014 and publically notified.

National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011: Progressive Implementation Programme

Any questions about the implementation of the NPS should be directed to info@mfe.govt.nz.

Implementation support

The Ministry for the Environment is producing guidance for regional councils on implementing the NPS. The first guidance to be produced will be on:

  • accounting for water takes and sources of contaminants
  • establishing freshwater management units.

Appendices 3 and 4 are currently empty

Policy CA3 sets out the circumstances for setting a freshwater objective below a national bottom line where

  • the existing freshwater quality is caused by naturally occurring processes
  • any of the existing infrastructure listed in Appendix 3 contributes to the existing freshwater quality.

Policy CA4 provides for setting a freshwater objective below a national bottom line for a transitional period if the applicable freshwater management unit and the transitional period are specified in Appendix 4.

Both Appendix 3 and Appendix 4 are empty and any proposal to amend the NPS-FM to add a list of infrastructure or a freshwater management unit to the appendices must be done in accordance with one of the processes set out in the RMA, both of which require public consultation.

This means that until a list of existing infrastructure or freshwater management units for transitional arrangements are added to Appendix 3 or 4, freshwater objectives can only be set below a national bottom line in accordance with Policy CA3i (if the existing freshwater quality of the freshwater management unit is already below the national bottom line and that existing freshwater quality is caused by naturally occurring processes).

Review of the NPS

An independent review of the NPS, scheduled to commence in 2016, will be an opportunity to assess the reforms and their results.

How the NPS-FM relates to the NPS for Renewable Electricity Generation 2011

The National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation provides for the development, operation, maintenance and upgrading of new and existing hydro-electricity structures. It does not address freshwater allocation. The NPS-FM 2014 identifies hydro-electric power generation as one of the national values of fresh water. However, it does not prioritise any national or local water uses or values over the compulsory national values.

How the NPS-FM relates to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010

The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS) contains policies in relation to water quality in the coastal environment (which includes a portion of the freshwater environment). The NPS-FM and the NZCPS overlap in the freshwater portion of the coastal environment.  The NPS-FM 2014 requires councils to have regard to the connections between freshwater and coastal water when setting objectives in their regional plans.

How the NPS-FM relates to the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010

Under the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010, the Waikato River Authority’s vision and strategy document prevails over any provisions in the NPS-FM that are inconsistent with it (for more detail on the vision and strategy, see the link below). The vision and strategy requires the Waikato River to be restored according to Waikato-Tainui tikanga and that its entire length be safe to swim in and take food from. This requirement prevails over the national bottom lines for human health of the NPS-FM 2014.

Vision and strategy for the Waikato River [Waikato River Authority website]

Find out more

Related publications

Related cabinet papers, minutes and RIS

Related pages on this site

Minister’s media releases

Last updated: 8 August 2014