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New national policy means changes to Northland freshwater management



23 Aug 2022


Sediment and E. coli are the two greatest threats to freshwater health throughout Northland as the deadline for implementing national policy directives to stop further degradation looms.

Under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020, regional councils have until the end of 2024 to notify new plans aimed at maintaining or improving freshwater.

Northland Regional Council chief executive Malcolm Nicolson said creating a new Freshwater Plan will set a new direction for the way freshwater is treated and will include new rules for activities that impact on freshwater.

“Freshwater has long been managed as a resource to use and not as a taonga to treasure and as a result, many of our freshwater ecosystems are in a dire state,” Mr Nicolson said.

“Our ecosystems have degraded over time, and we now need to make some big changes to how we operate to meet the new national standards. We need to change the way we think about freshwater.”

Under the national directives, “bottom lines” for water quality measures had been set which all regions would need to meet. Northland is currently below these in many places for measures of sediment, E. coli and macroinvertebrates – freshwater species such as insects, koura, worms and snails.

Fundamental to the development of the Freshwater Plan was the requirement to reflect the concept of Te Mana o te Wai, that when managing freshwater, the health and wellbeing of the water itself is put first before other considerations.

Mr Nicolson said the regional council had been liaising with a group of tangata whenua freshwater technical experts, and representatives from primary sector organisations to help shape the draft Freshwater Plan.

Mr Nicolson said wider public engagement on the Freshwater Plan would take place before a draft was then released for public feedback mid-2023.

“We all want future generations to be able to enjoy clean water and the natural environments that healthy water supports. It’s now our job to work with communities to prepare a plan for how we’ll get there.”

n Read more about the new freshwater rules at nrc.govt.nz/freshwaterplan

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