About Freshwater Management
Why an Essential Freshwater package?
The Government-commissioned report “Our Freshwater 2020”, which forms part of the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ’s environmental reporting series, found freshwater and the life it supports are under threat, particularly in urban and intensively farmed areas.
The report found New Zealand’s land uses result in excess nutrients (like nitrogen), chemicals, pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms), and sediment entering freshwater and causing harm. Water pollution is not the result of any single land use, but comes from the mosaic of urban areas, farms, and plantation forests found in many catchments.
Introduction of inappropriate species, modifications to natural waterways and changes to the courses in our rivers and aquifers have altered water levels and flows. This affects our freshwater and puts species at risk, reducing the benefits we receive from nature and affecting our connections to freshwater.
In August 2020, the Government responded with national direction for protecting, enhancing, and preventing further damage to waterways, lakes, and streams with the release of its Essential Freshwater package. A fundamental concept across the package is Te Mana o te Wai, which means the first priority is to ensure the life-supporting capacity of freshwater. This package includes requirements for resource users, as well as direction for councils to engage with communities and tangata whenua to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai in regional policies and plans.
The National Policy for Freshwater Management
A key element of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package is the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPSFM 2020). This is a Government policy that gives local authorities direction on how to manage freshwater under the Resource Management Act (RMA).
The objective of the NPSFM is to ensure that natural and physical resources are managed in a way that prioritises:
- First, the health and well-being of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems,
- Second, the health needs of people (such as drinking water),
- Third, the ability for people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, now and in the future.
To give effect to NPSFM, Council is required to review the freshwater aspects of the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP) and notify a variation by the end of December 2024.
The first major step is for councils to identify areas called Freshwater Management Units (FMUs). An FMU is a water body or multiple water bodies at an appropriate scale for managing freshwater in a region. These can be a river catchment, part of a catchment or a group of catchments.
Requirements for Marlborough
Councils are required to give effect to national policy statements through their regional plans. The plans contain objectives, policies, methods, and rules, which need to be updated to fulfil the requirements of the NPSFM.
There have been previous versions of the NPSFM and the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP), which was notified in 2016, gave effect to the 2014 version of the NPSFM. Through the plan hearings process, some changes were made to align the PMEP to the 2017 changes to the NPSFM, and currently mediation is being undertaken on appeals to the PMEP.
The PMEP, therefore, already contains many freshwater values, a comprehensive set of water quantity provisions and a set of water quality standards. This provides a good basis for the implementation of the 2020 version of the NPSFM. As such, a variation to the PMEP will be undertaken, which must be notified by 31 December 2024.
The focus of this variation will be to ensure that the PMEP provides for the sustainable management of our environment, so our freshwater bodies and ecosystems are healthy.
The Process for Council
Council is seeking input from the public, tangata whenua, local community groups, and industry to identify and understand issues, values and aspirations for freshwater in the Marlborough region. Over a two-year period to November 2024, several engagements will take place through online surveys, public events, and meetings. Anyone can take part in the engagement surveys, and hardcopies will be available from council offices, libraries and at public events.
The first round of engagement is focussed on Freshwater Management Units (FMUs), with submissions open from late November 2022 to the end of February 2023. The aim of this round is to find out how we value freshwater in our region and what aspirations we have for this water both now and into the future. The proposal is to divide Marlborough’s freshwater into six FMUs, which are single catchments or a group of catchments with similar characteristics.
These public engagements will ultimately inform environmental outcomes and objectives in Marlborough’s plan for freshwater, supported by policies and rules around resource use limits and targets for freshwater health. There are many demands on our region’s freshwater and often these can be competing. The challenge is to identify and prioritise where and how we can safeguard what we currently have, take action to improve what has been degraded and restore what we have lost.
Council encourages you to make a submission, stating what you value most about freshwater, how and where you currently use and interact with it and what you would like to see for the future of freshwater in Marlborough.