Why collaboration is key to New Zealand’s freshwater future

10 June 2020

As the dust begins to settle over the COVID-19 crisis, New Zealand has an opportunity to address another critical national challenge: the future of freshwater.

A new report by law firm Bell Gully released during Visio​nweek highlights current freshwater issues and looks at where the key to cleaner water might be found in a sector grappling with complex relationships between the agricultural sector, iwi, government and other stakeholders.

Natasha Garvan, lead author of The Big Picture: Freshwater​, and partner in Bell Gully’s environment and resource management practice​, said New Zealand requires integrated solutions around freshwater, solutions that provide economic pathways for iwi, farmers and others to make a living in a way compatible with the environment.

She points to signs the current system lacks the integration needed. “That is evident when you consider the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on policy and freshwater management plans, while very little is directed at supporting the behaviour change that is required to deliver meaningful outcomes,” she said.

The report examines how some farming communities both in New Zealand and elsewhere in the world are finding solutions in collaborative value chains and systems that create premiums from environmental wins. “The key will be to ensure the value created is passed along to incentivise those tasked with improving our freshwater,” Natasha said.

She says change is also needed in the legal framework governing the sector. “Our legal framework must support new economic models, rather than undermining them or hampering their realisation.”

The report also looks at how some are exploring technology solutions, details how freshwater rights are currently allocated and highlights how the Resource Management Act is currently applied around freshwater.

The Big Picture: Freshwater was released for Infrastructure New Zealand’s Visionweek – a virtual event discussing New Zealand’s future across numerous areas including business, health and science.

Click here to read the report.