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Appendix C: National Policy Statement for freshwater management

 

(As recommended by the Board of Inquiry)

Preamble

Fresh water is highly valued by New Zealanders for many uses and intrinsic values. Yet the availability of supplies of fresh water, and its suitability for those uses and for maintaining those values, are under threat. New Zealanders are faced with considerable challenges in managing allocations of water that leave enough in lakes, rivers and aquifers for the health of associated ecosystems; in eliminating contamination of them; and in protecting wetlands. The challenges are greater due to increasing climate change.

National policies are needed to address those challenges and remove the threats for good. In some respects that may take a generation. But national policies on management of fresh water will only be credible if, by carrying them through, those goals will be reached.

There follow lists of values of fresh water for enabling well-being of people and communities, and of intrinsic values; of national issues about freshwater management; and of national goals. They are the foundations for setting national objectives and policies for freshwater management. Meanings are given of some terms used in them.

National values of fresh water

There are values for which people and communities may make use of fresh water to provide for their own well-being and amenity, for example:

  • domestic drinking and washing water
  • animal drinking water
  • community water supply
  • fire fighting
  • hydro-electricity generation
  • commercial and industrial processes
  • irrigation
  • recreational activities (including waka ama)
  • food production and harvesting, e.g. fish farms and mahinga kai
  • transport and access (including tauranga waka)
  • cleaning, dilution and disposal of waste.

There are also values that relate to recognising and respecting fresh water’s intrinsic values for: safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of water and associated ecosystems; and sustaining its potential to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations. Examples of these values include:

  • the interdependency of the elements of the freshwater cycle
  • the natural form, character, functioning and natural processes of water bodies and margins, including natural flows, velocities, levels, variability and connections
  • the natural conditions of fresh water, free from biological or chemical alterations resulting from human activity, so that it is fit for all aspects of its intrinsic values
  • healthy ecosystem processes functioning naturally
  • healthy ecosystems supporting the diversity of indigenous species in sustainable populations
  • cultural and traditional relationships of Māori with fresh water, including mauri, waahi tapu, wai taonga, recognised customary activities and spiritual values
  • historic heritage associations with fresh water
  • providing a sense of place for people and communities.

All the values in both lists are important national values of fresh water.

National issues about freshwater management

Four national issues about freshwater management arise:

  • over-allocation of fresh water
  • contamination of fresh water
  • loss of wetlands
  • incompletely integrated management.

National goals

These issues are nationally significant and to address them and ensure that all those national values of fresh water are safeguarded, this National Policy Statement has these national goals:

  • to phase out over-allocation
  • to phase out contamination
  • to protect wetlands
  • to improve the integration of management.

A.  General objective

Objective A1

To manage fresh water in a way and at a rate that –

  1. maintains, and to the extent practicable, restores and enhances the intrinsic values of fresh water:
    1. in the interdependence of the elements of the freshwater cycle; and
    2. in the natural form, character, functioning and natural processes of water bodies; and
    3. in natural and healthy conditions free from alterations resulting from human activity; and
    4. in healthy ecosystem processes functioning naturally; and
    5. for safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems; and
    6. for providing healthy ecosystems supporting the diversity of indigenous species in sustainable populations; and
    7. for sustaining cultural and traditional relationships of Māori with fresh water; and
    8. for sustaining the potential for fresh water to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and
  2. (while not detracting from attaining clause 1), enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being, and for their health and safety.

B.   Tāngata whenua roles and Māori values and interests

Objective B1

To ensure that tāngata whenua are involved, and Māori values and interests are recognised and provided for, in the management of fresh water and associated ecosystems.

Policy B1

By every regional council making or changing its regional policy statement to the extent needed to ensure it contains policy:

  1. for identifying Māori values and interests in all fresh water and freshwater ecosystems in the region; and
  2. for involving tāngata whenua in management and decision-making regarding fresh water and freshwater ecosystems in the region.

Integrated management

Objective C1

To improve integrated management of fresh water, associated ecosystems and use of land in whole catchments.

Policy C1

By every regional council managing fresh water and freshwater ecosystems, and controlling activities and use of land, in whole catchments, so as to avoid adverse cumulative effects anywhere in the catchment.

D.     Water quantity

Objective D1

To safeguard the life-supporting capacity, ecosystem processes and indigenous species and their associated ecosystems of fresh water from the adverse effects of taking, using, damming, or diverting of fresh water or of draining of wetlands.

Objective D2

To phase out over-allocation of fresh water.

Policy D1

By every regional council making or changing regional plans to the extent needed to ensure the plans allocate fresh water among types of activity in a manner and at rates that (having regard to reasonably foreseeable impacts of climate change) enable environmental flows and levels to be fully sustained.

Policy D2

By every regional council making or changing regional plans to the extent needed to ensure the plans set environmental flows and levels for all bodies of fresh water in its region (except ponds and naturally ephemeral water bodies).

Policy D3

By every regional council phasing out existing over-allocation.

Policy D4

By every regional council avoiding any decision and any other action that results in future over-allocation.

Policy D5

By every regional council, wherever permissible, reviewing water permits and consents to ensure the exercise of them safeguards intrinsic national values of fresh water:

  1. in over-allocated catchments; and
  2. in over-allocated water bodies; and
  3. in times of low flow or level.

Policy D6

By every regional council managing demand for fresh water so that the aggregate of all amounts of fresh water in a water body that are authorised to be taken, used, dammed or diverted does not over-allocate the water in the water body.

Policy D7

By every regional council managing use of fresh water so as to avoid wastage.

Policy D8

By regional councils imposing conditions of water permits requiring adoption of the best practicable option to achieve conservation of water.

Policy D9

By every regional council making or changing regional plans to the extent needed to ensure the plans state criteria by which applications for approval of transfers of water permits are to be decided, including:

  1. the extent to which the transfer would result in enhanced quality of fresh water;
  2. the extent to which the transfer would maintain quantities of fresh water in natural water bodies
  3. the extent to which the transfer would enhance the conservation of water.

Policy D10 and direction (under section 55) to regional councils

By every regional council making or changing regional plans (without using the process in Schedule 1) to the extent needed to ensure the plans include the following policy to take effect immediately, and to continue in effect until changes required by Policy D1 (allocation), Policy D2 (environmental flows and levels), and Policies D3 and D5 (over-allocation) of this national policy statement have been given full effect:

“1.   This policy applies to:

  1. any change in the character, intensity or scale of any activity that involves any taking, using, damming or diverting of fresh water or draining of any wetland; and
  2. any change in the natural variability of flows or level of any fresh water, by which the activity or variability is not the same or similar in character, intensity, scale, or relative frequency and extent as that which immediately preceded the change.

2.    Any change to which this policy applies requires resource consent (as a discretionary activity), and any application for consent is to be decided by criteria that include:

  1. the extent to which the change would adversely affect safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of fresh water and of any associated ecosystem; and
  2. the extent to which it is feasible and dependable that any adverse effect on the life-supporting capacity of fresh water and of any associated ecosystem resulting from the change would be fully avoided.”

E.     Water quality

Objective E1

To protect the quality of outstanding fresh water, to enhance the quality of all fresh water contaminated as a result of human activities, and to maintain the quality of all other fresh water.

Objective E2

To safeguard the life-supporting capacity, ecosystem processes and indigenous species and associated ecosystems of fresh water from adverse effects of the use or development of land, and of discharges of contaminants.

Policy E1

By every regional council making or changing regional plans to the extent needed to ensure the plans:

  1. set freshwater quality standards for all bodies of fresh water in their regions; and
  2. by rule, prescribe attainment of those standards (except in respect of contaminants that do not result from human land use or activity).

Policy E2

By every regional council avoiding any decision and any other action that results in future contamination of fresh water.

Policy E3

By regional councils imposing conditions of discharge permits requiring adoption of best practicable options to protect against contamination of fresh water.

Policy E4 and direction (under section 55) to regional councils

By every regional council making or changing regional plans (without using the process in Schedule 1) to the extent needed to ensure the plans include the following policy to take effect immediately, and to continue in effect until changes required by Policy E1 (freshwater quality standards) of this national policy statement have been given full effect:

“1.   This policy applies to any change in the character, and to any increase in the intensity or scale, of any land use or activity—

  1. (a)   that is not of the same or similar character, intensity or scale as that which immediately preceded it; and
    (b)   that involves any discharge (by any person or by any animal) of any contaminant or water into fresh water, or onto or into land in circumstances that may result in that contaminant (or, as a result of any natural process from the discharge of that contaminant, any other contaminant) entering fresh water.

2.    Any change or increase in intensity of land use or activity to which this policy applies requires resource consent (as a discretionary activity), and any application for consent is to be decided by criteria that include:

  1. the extent to which the land use or activity would avoid contamination of, and any other adverse effect on, fresh water;
  2. the extent to which it is feasible and dependable that any adverse effect on fresh water, and on any ecosystem associated with fresh water, resulting from the use or activity would be fully avoided.”

F.     Progressive implementation programme

Policy F1

  1. This policy applies to the implementation by a regional council of a policy of this national policy statement.
  2. Every regional council is to implement the policy as promptly as is reasonable in the circumstances, and so it is fully completed by no later than 31 December 2030.
  3. Where a regional council is satisfied that it is impracticable for it to complete implementation of a policy fully by 31 December 2014, the council may implement it by a programme of defined time-limited stages by which it is to be fully implemented by 31 December 2030.
  4. Any programme of time-limited stages is to be formally adopted by the council within 18 months of the date of gazetting of this national policy statement, and publicly notified.
  5. Where a regional council has adopted a programme of staged implementation, it is to publicly report, in every year, on the extent to which the programme has been implemented.

Meanings of terms

In this national policy statement:

“Act” means the Resource Management Act 1991.

“Environmental flows and levels” means the water flows and levels required to provide for the intrinsic values of fresh water contained in the second list of values of fresh water in the preamble.

“Fresh water” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Act.

“Freshwater quality standard” means a regional rule on freshwater quality which provides for the intrinsic values of fresh water contained in the second list of values of fresh water in the preamble.

“Over-allocation” means

  • ·           allocating fresh water in a water body among types of activity
  • ·           authorising the taking, using, damming or diversion of fresh water in the water body

to an extent that exceeds the amount of water available in the water body after taking into account:

  1. environmental flows and levels in respect of the water body; and
  2. amounts of water likely to be taken from the water body under section 14(3)(b) of the Act; and
  3. amounts of water in the water body already allocated or committed by current water permit.

Terms given meaning in the Act have the meanings so given.