The Land and Water Forum (LWF) today published its third and final report on how freshwater management in New Zealand can be improved.
The forum proposes a collaborative approach at both national and catchment levels to set and implement objectives for waterways, prescribe limits for takes and discharges where these are required, and to find fair, efficient and accountable ways to implement the limits. It believes all water quality solutions should be tailored to individual catchments.
Good management practice by land and water users is the basic tool. Incentivising it is the preferred approach. Regions are accountable for managing within limits. Industry schemes, catchment-wide initiatives and regulation may all help to ensure the limits are achieved within the agreed timeframes.
“This report fleshes out the detail of a new consensus for a major reform of water laws and practices in New Zealand,” said Forum chairman, Alastair Bisley. “The breadth of this consensus provides a once in a generation chance to resolve the entrenched problems surrounding fresh water.”
The Forum is recommending integrated decision-making in catchments, continuous improvement of management practices and clearer rights to take and use water within set limits.
Said Bisley: “Our reports together provide a comprehensive and detailed blueprint to maximise opportunities from fresh water for us all – farmers and fishers, power generators and recreationalists, citizens and tourists, cities and industries.
“We want to grow the economy and improve the environment. Our recommendations apply to both urban and rural catchments. They provide for iwi to play their role as Treaty Partners and stakeholders.
“We call for community decisions at catchment level – within national frameworks and bottom lines from central Government.”
“Water available for users once limits have been set should be allocated with long-term economic welfare in mind.
“All authorised takes should be brought progressively within the allocation system.
“As catchments become fully allocated, consents should be clarified and strengthened to preserve their value. Water should be made more easily transferable between users while limits are preserved.”
Bisley added: “If our recommendations are followed, consents longer than 35 years for significant infrastructure, and a stronger presumption that consents will be rolled over, should also be considered a little way down the track.”
Iwi rights and interests were not part of the forum’s mandate, but the group notes that for a stable and durable system of water management, iwi rights and interests need to be resolved.
“In 21st century New Zealand, under the pressure of people, agriculture and industry, the quality of our rivers, lakes and streams will vary – they will not all be pristine,” Mr Bisley said. “We believe most New Zealanders will agree, if they are sure that there are bottom lines which preserve the health of our water and human health, that water quality will improve over time and that outstanding waterways will be protected.”
Forum had reached consensus on almost all issues. There is one split recommendation and the group did not resolve the question of merit appeals to the Environment Court. “Almost all of us support this third report. This, and the preceding reports, reflect the work of more than 100 individuals from more than 60 stakeholders. They form an integrated package and we hope that the government will implement them as a whole to sustain the consensus.
The Land and Water Forum is an independent body which the Government asked to provide a consensus view on how to improve the management of New Zealand’s freshwater resources. Its report can be found here: www.landandwater.org.nz