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2 Background

The Sustainable Development Water Programme of Action

The Government established the Sustainable Development Water Programme of Action in 2003 to ensure that the country's freshwater resources are managed to best support New Zealand's future sustainable development. The principles of the Programme are outlined in Appendix 1. The programme is part of the Government's wider Sustainable Development Programme of Action.

The Sustainable Development Water Programme of Action established working groups to look at three areas: water allocation and use, water quality, and the identification of potential water bodies of national importance. Three technical papers were produced by the working groups and released in December 2004: the papers Water allocation and use; The effects of rural land use on water quality; and Potential water bodies of national importance, and other technical papers on water bodies of national importance, can be found at or

Discussion document

A public discussion document was developed based on the work completed within the three work streams of water allocation, water quality and potential water bodies of national importance. Because the three areas of focus are closely connected, the discussion document treats them in an integrated way. The discussion document:

  • outlines the different ways in which New Zealanders value and use freshwater
  • describes how water allocation, water quality and water bodies of national importance are managed at present
  • describes the pressures and challenges facing our water management system
  • identifies eight key issues that need to be addressed in any reform of the country's water management system
  • proposes a package of actions to improve the water management system and overcome the challenges it currently faces. The proposed package is not the only way forward, and other possibilities are also described.

The discussion document did not focus on urban water quality issues. The primary issue addressed by the water quality working group was the impact of diffuse discharges from rural land use.

The discussion document was released for comment on 9 December 2004.

Consultation process

In February 2005, consultation meetings on the discussion document were jointly run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry for the Environment. Meetings were held with regional councils, Maori, the public, and stakeholder groups in 20 locations across the country. A schedule of meetings is included in Appendix 3.

The purpose of the consultation meetings was to hear what New Zealanders had to say about freshwater management. The government did not have a set policy for participants to react to - the intent was very much to garner feedback on the initial set of ideas developed under the programme. The priority was to listen to feedback on whether the right issues and options had been identified, what other issues and options might exist, and what people thought of the actions presented. Written submissions were also invited from meeting participants and from all New Zealanders.

In addition to this report, separate reports are available which summarise the issues raised at meetings held with Maori and local government. An analysis of the written submissions received has also been completed. Copies of these reports are available by contacting the Ministry for the Environment or by visiting the Ministry's website at

Public meetings

The following public meetings were held during February 2005.


Meeting venue

Meeting date


Kingsgate Hotel

2 February 2005


Ellerslie Convention Centre

1 February 2005


Ferrybank Reception & Conference Centre

1 February 2005


Royal Lakeside Novotel Hotel

2 February 2005


Gisborne Hotel

1 February 2005

Napier/ Hastings

East Pier

31 January 2005


Millennium Hotel

9 February 2005

New Plymouth

Plymouth International Hotel

8 February 2005

Palmerston North

Palmerston North Convention Centre

7 February 2005


Masterton District Council

7 February 2005


Duxton Hotel

8 February 2005


Scenic Circle Blenheim Country Hotel

8 February 2005

Nelson/ Richmond

Seifried Function Centre

9 February 2005


West Coast Regional Council

15 February 2005


Christchurch Convention Centre

14 February 2005


Phar Lap Raceway

15 February 2005


Dunedin Centre

14 February 2005


Centennial Court Motor Inn

15 February 2005


Ascot Park Hotel

14 February 2005

The notes from these meetings are in Appendix 1.

Next steps

The reports from the consultation meetings and submissions will be used to help guide the Government's decisions about future approaches to freshwater management. This will include making any changes required to the Government's preferred package of options to develop sustainable ways of managing freshwater.