What is new for freshwater?

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Authors: Marija Batistich and Natasha Garvan

​​First published in NZ Winegrower, October-November 2014 edition.

The Government has recently issued the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (the NPS) which replaces the 2011 version. The 2014 includes a number of key changes which aim to improve national consistency in freshwater management.

National Objectives Framework

The NPS includes a National Objectives Framework. This is designed to provide an approach to establish freshwater objectives for national values, and any other values, which is nationally consistent and recognises regional and local circumstances.

The NPS establishes two compulsory national values: ecosystem health and human health for wading and boating. This latter value supports a new objective in the NPS to safeguard the health of people and communities, at least as affected by secondary contact with fresh water. Every regional council must ensure that freshwater objectives for the compulsory values are set at or above the national bottom lines for all freshwater management units (which can be groups of water bodies), unless it is set below the bottom line on a transitional basis and for a certain period of time, or specified exceptions apply. These freshwater objectives (and associated limits) will be part of a regional plan.

The NPS includes an appendix setting out a number of other national values including for natural form and character, food gathering, irrigation and food production, animal drinking water, wai tapu, water supply, commercial and industrial use, hydro-electric power generation, and navigation. We understand the intention is that the NPS will be amended in the future to identify the attributes of these values (or at least some of them) and the different attribute states so that there is national consistency between regions.

At this stage there are only the attributes and varying attribute states for ecosystem health and human health for recreation. For example, for human health for recreation the two attributes are E. coli and cyanobacteria – planktonic. There are four different states for each of these attributes. Attribute state ‘A’ for E. coli provides that people are exposed to a very low risk of infection, whereas attribute state ‘D’ provides that people are exposed to a high risk of infection from contact with water during activities with occasional immersion and some ingestion of water (this state is below the national bottom line).

The NPS requires regional councils to follow a set process to develop freshwater objectives for the freshwater management units within its region. This involves the following:

  • Considering all national values and how they apply to local and regional circumstances;

  • Identifying the values for each freshwater management unit, which must include the compulsory values, and may include any other national values or other values that the regional council considers is appropriate;

  • Identifying the attributes that are applicable to each value (the NPS only includes attributes for ecosystem health and human health for recreation at this stage), and assigning an attribute state at or above the minimum acceptable state for that attribute;

  • Formulating freshwater objectives in numeric terms where practicable (the NPS includes numeric attribute states for some attributes), otherwise in narrative terms; and

  • Considering a number of specified matters throughout the process. For example, any implications for resource users, people and communities arising from the freshwater objectives and associated limits including implications for actions, investments, ongoing management changes and any social, cultural or economic implications.

We expect members of the public will be able to provide input into the above process through public submissions on proposed regional plans.

Monitoring Plans

The NPS establishes an approach to the monitoring of progress towards, and the achievement of, freshwater objectives. Every regional council is required to develop a monitoring plan that establishes methods for monitoring progress towards, and the achievement of, freshwater objectives. This must involve identifying a site or sites at which monitoring will be undertaken that are representative for each freshwater management unit. The monitoring plan must recognise the importance of long-term trends in monitoring results. It is unclear whether this will form part of regional plans or be a separate document.

Accounting for freshwater takes and contaminants

There are a number of provisions relating to accounting for freshwater which take effect within two years from the date of entry into effect of the NPS so August 2016. These are designed to improve information on takes and sources of contaminants in order to ensure the necessary information is available for freshwater objective and limit setting and ensure information on resource availability is available for current and potential resource users.

There are already requirements for individual users to measure and report on water takes in the Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010, but there is no equivalent requirement for discharges. The NPS now requires every regional council to establish and operate freshwater quality and quantity accounting systems for those freshwater management units where they are setting or reviewing freshwater objectives and limits. These systems are to be maintained at levels of detail that are commensurate with the significance of the freshwater quality and freshwater quantity issues in each freshwater management unit. This information is to be made available to the public, regularly and in a suitable form.

Winegrowers should take the opportunity to submit on the freshwater objectives and corresponding limits which will be part of a regional plan via the usual public submission process.


This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.

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Related areas of expertise
  • Environment and resource management
  • Water, waste and contamination