INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt: Q and A - Decisions of freshwater NPS

Published: Wed 9 Aug 2017 04:23 PM
Q
1.What is today’s announcement about?
Today we have announced a package of measures to ensure that fresh water quality improves over time so that 90 per cent of our rivers and lakes are swimmable by 2040.
Changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 include:
- clearer requirements for regional councils to improve water quality
- requiring regional councils to report on contributions to achieving national swimmability targets every five years
- clarification on how regional councils should consider economic matters in setting their regional plans
- more detail on monitoring for freshwater and better processes regarding measuring water quality including macroinvertebrates and nutrient levels in waterways.
Yesterday, $44 million of new funding was also announced for 33 projects from the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund.
2.What is the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management?
National policy statements are issued by central government to provide direction to local government about matters of national significance. The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM) is about recognising the national significance of fresh water and Te Mana o te Wai (the mana of the water). It provides direction about how local authorities should carry out their responsibilities under the Resource Management Act for managing fresh water.
The Government consulted on proposed amendments to the NPS-FM in March/April 2017. Public submissions have been considered and decisions made about the final amendments to the NPS-FM. This will detail the required process for how improvements are made to water quality to meet the new national targets.
3.What has changed since the consultation?
Regional councils now need to show how they will contribute to the overall target of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers being swimmable by 2040 and to set regional targets for getting there.
This includes identifying the lakes and rivers people use for recreation, and sharing what improvements will be made and how they will be achieved. Regional councils will need to report on their progress every five years.
There was no legal requirement in the old NPS to improve water quality for primary contact (swimming). The standard was set at secondary contact (wadeable) and was measured as a median of less than 1000 E.coli/100ml. The new policy removes references to secondary contact and focusses on improving primary contact with a median of less than 130 E.coli/100ml. There was a non-regulatory reference to primary contact in the old NPS with two gradings and only one statistical test (95th percentile) and no sampling requirement. In changing to a regulatory requirement, the new NPS uses five gradings, four statistical tests and requires a sampling regime.
Much of the detail of the proposals has been clarified and made more robust so regional councils and others are clear on what they need to do to improve fresh water quality. Better monitoring and reporting is needed to enable us to track progress over time.
4.Who has had input into these changes?
We received more than 9000 submissions, and we have taken a lot of advice from experts to get this right, including the Land and Water Forum and the Government’s Chief Science Advisor. We have listened carefully to the feedback we have received.
5.How are you going to make real improvements?
We are introducing an ambitious package of measures to make sure that fresh water quality improves. In particular, the requirement that communities will continue to improve water quality to achieve the 2030 and 2040 targets mean we will see real and ongoing improvements for our rivers and lakes over the next 15-25 years.
6. Are the standards stricter now?
The new standards are based on a different approach to measuring the health risks of swimming in rivers and lakes. We are confident that the standards are set at the right levels and are designed to protect public health.
The previous grades set a national bottom line of “wadeable” or “secondary contact” that councils needed to meet, but there was no requirement for councils to improve beyond that. Now there is a requirement for councils to improve all rivers and lakes so they are suitable for swimming or primary contact more often. We think this is a good approach.
7.What about the ecological health of waterways?
We have clarified and added detail on how councils should manage the ecological health of their water bodies. Councils will need to use the Macroinvertebrate Community Index to assess ecosystem health and must take action to improve waterways that are degraded or degrading. There is also a stronger direction to manage nutrients in rivers and their impact on lakes and estuaries.
8.What requirements are there for economic factors to be considered?
The changes announced clarify for councils that, when setting freshwater objectives and limits, they should consider their communities’ economic wellbeing, within environmental limits.
9.What about the new stock exclusion rules?
Work on the detail of the stock exclusion regulations is ongoing.
10.How long will councils have to identify their priorities and implement them?
Regional councils will now need to provide draft targets for their region by March 2018 and final targets will need to be in place by December 2018. This gives councils more time to talk to their communities about which rivers and lakes – both large and small – are most important for them to be able to swim in and by when.
11.What does this mean for your region?
We’ll be talking to councils and other groups in the coming weeks about the support they’ll need to implement the changes. There is a lot to do and we’re committed to working closely with the key people – communities and partners – to make sure the implementation goes as smoothly as possible.

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