Managing freshwater quality: Challenges and opportunities

Published: Thu 19 Sep 2019 02:11 PM
Auditor-General's report published, Managing freshwater quality: Challenges and opportunities
The Auditor-General’s report Managing freshwater quality: Challenges and opportunities was presented to the House of Representatives today.
In 2011, we published a report on how effectively Waikato Regional Council, Taranaki Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council, and Environment Southland (the four councils) managed the effects of land use on freshwater quality in their regions. We found that the effectiveness of the four regional councils’ approaches was variable.
In this report, we assess the progress the four councils have made in improving how they manage their freshwater quality monitoring programmes that are critical to protecting or improving freshwater quality overtime.
Regional councils are working in a difficult environment, with a range of stakeholders and often competing interests. Despite these challenges, the four regional councils have made improvements in aspects of their water management that support planning and targeting interventions to protect and improve freshwater quality.
The four councils all have robust monitoring programmes. However, they could further improve how they share information about freshwater quality, strengthen relationships with iwi and hapū, and commit to using a full range of tools for compliance, monitoring, and enforcement. In particular, councils could be more proactive in releasing information publicly to show whether their efforts are making a difference to freshwater quality.
More importantly, we are concerned that there is not enough information about freshwater at a national level. Decision-makers do not have the information they need to prepare a national approach or long-term strategy to address this significant environmental issue. A detailed national-level picture of freshwater quality would allow for effective national-level planning, prioritisation, and decision-making to support the work of regional councils. This issue needs leadership for rapid progress to be made. We consider that the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand are well placed to take this leadership role and have recommended that they work more closely with other organisaitons to encourage a consistent approach to monitoring, analysis, and reporting of freshwater quality state and trend information.
The other recommendations and messages in this report are relevant to all regional councils and unitary authorities. We ask that all councils use them as appropriate to support improvements in their approaches to freshwater quality management. We also encourage all groups involved in freshwater quality management to continue to build on their collaborative efforts to sustainably improve freshwater quality.
This report is also avialable as an epub and one-page summary.
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