What is a freshwater management unit?
The term freshwater management unit (FMU) was introduced to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) in the 2014 amendments. An FMU is defined in the NPS-FM 2014 as:
A water body, multiple water bodies or any part of a water body determined by the regional council as the appropriate spatial scale for setting freshwater objectives and limits and for freshwater accounting and management.
By definition FMUs are made up of freshwater bodies. Managing fresh water is, however, inherently linked to managing the land that feeds into the freshwater body, or the catchment that supplies it. The NPS-FM requires councils to manage fresh water and land use in an integrated and sustainable way. Councils should therefore consider the surrounding land use and its effect on freshwater bodies when identifying FMUs.
Why the concept of freshwater management units was added to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management
The concept of FMUs was added to the NPS-FM following recommendations by the Land and Water Forum to:
- encourage a pragmatic approach to freshwater management by allowing water bodies to be grouped together where appropriate
- allow a single objective to apply to freshwater bodies that are not connected
- establish a spatial scale at which management activities are undertaken, including freshwater accounting and setting freshwater objectives and limits.
The definition of FMUs is intentionally flexible so councils can determine the spatial scale best suited to managing fresh water in the specific circumstances of their region. Management includes setting values, objectives, limits, and undertaking freshwater accounting and monitoring.
The use of spatial units in land and water planning is not a new concept for councils, as this approach is already used by councils for water allocation. Incorporating FMUs into the NPS-FM formalises the concept, and attaches specific obligations to it.
Requirements for freshwater management units
The NPS-FM requires that all freshwater bodies in a region be included within an FMU (Policy CA1). As with all other aspects of the NPS-FM, councils can implement this policy progressively up until 2025. Councils will need to fully implement the policies of the NPS-FM by 2025 (or 2030 in certain circumstances) (Policy E1).
The NPS-FM also requires councils to do the following for each FMU:
- Establish a freshwater quality and freshwater quantity accounting system when setting or reviewing limits in accordance with Policies A1, B1 and CA1-CA4 (Policy CC1).
- Identify values, formulate freshwater objectives, set limits and targets to achieve those objectives, and choose methods to achieve those freshwater objectives, limits and targets (Policy CA2).
- Develop a monitoring plan that identifies at least one representative site for monitoring progress against freshwater objectives, once freshwater objectives are set (Policy CB1).