About the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (Freshwater NPS 2020) provides local authorities with updated direction on how they should manage freshwater under the Resource Management Act 1991. It came into force on 3 September 2020.

Key requirements of the Freshwater NPS 2020

New requirements include:

  • Manage freshwater in a way that ‘gives effect’ to Te Mana o te Wai:
    • through involving tangata whenua 
    • working with tangata whenua and communities to set out long-term visions in the regional policy statement
    • prioritising the health and wellbeing of water bodies, then the essential needs of people, followed by other uses.
  • Improve degraded water bodies, and maintain or improve all others using bottom lines defined in the NPS. 
  • An expanded national objectives framework:
    • two additional values - threatened species and mahinga kai - join ecosystem health and human health for recreation, as compulsory values 
    • councils must develop plan objectives that describe the environmental outcome sought for all values (including an objective for each of the five individual components of ecosystem health)  
    • new attributes, aimed specifically at providing for ecosystem health, include fish index of biotic integrity (IBI), sediment, macroinvertebrates (MCI and QMCI), dissolved oxygen, ecosystem metabolism and submerged plants in lakes; councils will have to develop action plans and/or set limits on resource use to achieve these attributes. 
    • tougher national bottom lines for the ammonia and nitrate toxicity attributes to protect 95% of species from toxic effects (up from 80%)
    • no national bottom lines for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) or dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) (as consulted on) but there is a requirement to manage these attributes as they relate to periphyton and other ecosystem health attributes, and to provide for the health of downstream ecosystems.    
  • Avoid any further loss or degradation of wetlands and streams, map existing wetlands and encourage their restoration.
  • Identify and work towards target outcomes for fish abundance, diversity and passage and address in-stream barriers to fish passage over time.
  • Set an aquatic life objective for fish and address in-stream barriers to fish passage over time.
  • Monitor and report annually on freshwater (including the data used); publish a synthesis report every five years containing a single ecosystem health score and respond to any deterioration.

The above list is not exhaustive.

The Freshwater NPS 2020 is one of several pieces of national direction for managing New Zealand’s freshwater. National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and RMA Section 360 regulations for stock exclusion are also being introduced. Guidance to support the implementation of these new rules and regulations will be released as they come into force. 

Find out more about the new freshwater rules and regulations

Key requirements of the Freshwater NPS 2014 (amended 2017)

Some of the key requirements of the Freshwater NPS 2014 (amended 2017) were to:

  • ‘consider and recognise’ Te Mana o te Wai in freshwater management
  • identify and reflect tangata whenua values and interests in the management of freshwater and in decision-making around freshwater planning
  • safeguard freshwater’s life-supporting capacity, ecosystem processes, and indigenous species
  • maintain or improve the overall quality of freshwater within a freshwater management unit but improve it where people recreate so that it is suitable for primary contact more often 
  • follow a specific process  - the national objectives framework - for identifying the values that tāngata whenua and communities have for water; use a specified set of water quality measures (called attributes) to set freshwater objectives to achieve those values; then set water quality and quantity limits on resource use  (e.g. how much water can be taken or how much of a contaminant can be discharged) to meet the freshwater objectives over time and ensure they continue to be met
  • protect the significant values of wetlands and outstanding freshwater bodies
  • take an integrated approach to managing land use, freshwater and coastal water.

    The above list is not exhaustive and these things, and more, are carried through to the Freshwater NPS 2020 – although sometimes with a change in emphasis, or terminology for clarity.

    For more detailed information about the requirements of the Freshwater NPS 2014 (revised 2017) read the Freshwater NPS 2014 itself.

    What is the Freshwater NPS?

    National policy statements are issued by central government to provide direction to local government about how to carry out their responsibilities under the Resource Management Act 1991 when it comes to matters of national significance. 

    This Freshwater NPS applies to the management of fresh water through a framework that considers and recognises Te Mana o te Wai as an integral part of freshwater management. It directs the content that regional councils, in consultation with their communities, must include in their regional plans. Regional plans tell resource users what is allowed in terms of things like water takes and discharges, and what will require a resource consent.