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Draft National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2019 for consultation

Draft National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2019 for consultation

Draft National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2019 for consultation

Thursday 3 October, 2019

The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries have released a draft proposed National Policy Statement (“NPS”) for Freshwater Management for consultation. Submissions close on 17 October 2019.

The draft NPS will replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, as amended in 2017.  The purpose of the proposed NPS, as stated by the Government, is to take a holistic approach to freshwater management which puts water quality first. Providing for essential human needs, such as fresh drinking water will be second, with other uses following in priority.

Council obligations

The draft NPS proposes new freshwater planning processes which will require all councils to have new freshwater management plans in place by 2025.  This is targeted at regional plans and the need to implement planning provisions to address diffuse discharges of nutrients to land and water.  Regional councils will need to establish methods for monitoring progress towards achieving freshwater targets and develop action plans when they detect a deterioration in the quality of a freshwater body to halt or if possible, reserve, the effects of the deterioration.

If existing regional policy statements and plans already implement the draft NPS objectives and policies, regional councils are not obliged to make changes merely to achieve consistency with the wording of the new NPS. However, such councils will be responsible for showing that their regional policy statement or plan does implement the objectives and policies of the NPS. All regional councils must publicly notify their final decisions on changes to policy statements and plans giving effect to the NPS by 31 December 2025.

The draft NPS also sets higher standards for assessing drinking water quality, minimum standards wastewater discharges and mandatory good practice risk management. This will impact land use consents and all stormwater/wastewater discharges consent processes. The NPS seeks to significantly restrict draining or development of wetlands, and streams in urban/rural areas must not be piped or filled in unless there is no other option.

Changes to farming practices

In parallel to the NPS, the government has notified a draft National Environmental Standard for freshwater which, in general terms, requires all farmers and growers to have a freshwater risk management plan by 2025, and from 2020 there will be no new irrigation or dairy conversions unless there is evidence that it will not add to pollution. Catchments with high nitrate levels will need to reduce nitrogen within five years and there will be more fencing and wider setbacks to keep stock out of waterways and reduce erosion and run-off. There will be new intensive standards for winter grazing, feedlots and stock holding areas.

The draft NPS and NES for freshwater management has significant implications for regional councils as it will require additional plan change processes and/or variations to existing plan change processes (refer to article on the RMA bill).  Furthermore, there will potentially be an additional layer of regulation and consent processes for stakeholders affected by the NES.  Territorial authorities will be affected by changes which impact on point source discharges. 

Tompkins Wake is keeping a watching brief of this issue and will provide updates as the processes develop.


 For assistance with questions relating to this article, please contact one of our local government partners, Bridget Parham, Marianne Mackintosh or Theresa Le Bas.

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