Maintain local decision-making
Participants at all of the meetings signalled the importance of maintaining local decision-making. Concerns were raised that increased central government direction could result in less local involvement in decision-making. Regions and districts were regarded as having the knowledge necessary for managing water resources, although support from central government could be useful.
Environmental bottom lines are important
The need to establish environmental bottom lines for water bodies was raised at all of the meetings, whether these are established through minimum flows, allocation limits, or national environmental standards. Regions were thought best-placed to set bottom lines; however, in some cases central government guidance and support was thought to be needed. Specified methods for setting minimum flows and allocation limits were regarded as useful.
Funding for science and information
A lack of information for managing water bodies effectively was raised as an issue at all of the meetings. Councils were regarded as not having sufficient funds to carry out the necessary research and monitoring of water bodies. Central government funding of research through Crown research institutes was acknowledged; however, comments were made that research should be aligned with government programmes such as the Sustainable Development Water Programme of Action.
Dissemination of scientific, educational and best practice information was also regarded as a key problem. The extent of information already available was acknowledged, but problems with sharing this information and best practice were identified. Raising awareness of how to use water efficiently and reducing adverse impacts on water quality from land-use activities were regarded as key areas in need of more information and education.
Infrastructure and storage
Increased investment in infrastructure and in particular, storage facilities was regarded as important at all of the meetings. Central government was regarded as having a role in investigating storage options and in some cases providing funding for developing water storage facilities.
Allocation of water
Concern was raised at all of the meetings that changing the current allocation system could raise risks for existing consent holders. Although changes to the present system were in some cases supported, many regarded the recognition of existing investments as important. The term 'market-based instruments' evoked a wide range of views. Concerns about the possible privatisation of water and that water rights could end up in the hands of an elite few was raised at many meetings. Concerns were also raised that existing users would lose their access to water supply. At the same time, there were concerns that potential users may be denied access. Equitable access to water was regarded as highly important in any system.
Integrated catchment management
An integrated catchment management approach was suggested at most of the meetings. Developing whole of catchment plans which involve all relevant agencies, community groups and iwi was regarded as an effective approach for managing freshwater. Achieving integrated management of land-use activities and freshwater was also regarded as essential to improve water quality.