A recent hikoi and associated petition presented to Parliament
this week highlights the increasing focus being given to the
management of the quality of freshwater in New Zealand.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014
("NPSFM") requires that the overall quality of freshwater
within a region is maintained or improved. The NPSFM also sets
national bottom lines for the quality of freshwater.
The NPSFM sets national bottom lines for two compulsory values
(ecosystem health and human health for recreation) and minimum
acceptable states for other national values. The compulsory
national bottom line for human health for recreation requires that
as a minimum, water bodies will present a "no more than
moderate risk" of infection to people who undertake activities
that involve only occasional immersion in water (i.e. secondary
contact activities such as wading or boating).
The petition seeks to increase the standard to apply to primary
contact activities such as swimming (i.e. full immersion).
The timing of the petition is interesting as the Government is
currently consulting on proposed changes to the NPSFM. The
consultation document does not signal any amendments to the current
national bottom lines in the NPSFM. You can read more about the
The petition also highlights the tensions between the cultural,
recreational and environmental values of freshwater and the effects
that some activities (including industrial uses and farming) may
have on water quality.
The Government has signalled that while it may be open to
strengthening the NPSFM, that it is not practical to require every
water way to be at a swimmable standard. It seems that the focus
will remain on the changes to the NPSFM that are currently being
consulted on, along with the wider RMA reform agenda.
In that respect, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015
was referred to the Local Government and Environment Select
Committee and the public submission period closed on 14 March
2016. A report from the Select Committee is due on 3 June
2016. There are no significant changes signalled to the
obligations of regional councils in respect of the management of
freshwater quality as part of the Bill.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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