National Policy Statement on Fresh Water 2020

June 13th, 2020

In May 2020 the Minister for the Environment announced the decisions for action on fresh water. The NZ Government received 17.500 submissions during consultation on fresh water management.

There is a requirement to work more closely with iwi; fences will be required beside rivers to keep stock more than three metres away from the water; and a cap has been set on use of nitrogen fertiliser. While STEPS supports these moves, we are very disappointed there is still no bottom line for dissolved nitrogen or phosphorous.

Scientists such as Mike Joy and Adam Canning are critical of the lack of progress made. They believe the recommendations of the Science and Technical Advisory Group were largely ignored, and that water quality will not be regained within a generation.

When the Freshwater NPS 2020 comes into force later this year, new requirements will include:

  • Manage freshwater in a way that ‘gives effect’ to Te Mana o te Wai:
    • through involving tangata whenua 
    • working with tangata whenua and communities to set out long-term visions in the regional policy statement and by
    • prioritising the health and wellbeing of water bodies, then the essential needs of people, followed by other uses.
  • Improve degraded water bodies, and maintain or improve all others using baselines defined in the NPS. 
  • An expanded national objectives framework:
    • two additional values – threatened species and mahinga kai – join ecosystem health and human health for recreation, as compulsory values 
    • councils must develop plan objectives that describe the environmental outcome sought for all values (including an objective for each of the 5 individual components of ecosystem health)  
    • new attributes, aimed specifically at providing for ecosystem health, include Fish (IBI), sediment, Macroinvertebrates (MCI and QMCI), and dissolved oxygen; councils will have to develop action plans and/or set limits on resource use to achieve these attributes. 
    • a tougher national bottom line for the attribute Nitrate Toxicity to protect 95% of species from toxic effects (up from 80%)
    • no national bottom lines for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) or dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) (as consulted on) but there is a requirement to manage these attributes as they relate to periphyton and other ecosystem health attributes.     `
  • Avoid any further loss or degradation of wetlands and streams, map existing wetlands and encourage their restoration.
  • Identify and work towards target outcomes for fish abundance, diversity and passage and address in-stream barriers to fish passage over time.
  • Set an aquatic life objective for fish and address in-stream barriers to fish passage over time.
  • Monitor and report annually on freshwater (including the data used); publish a synthesis report every five years containing a single ecosystem health score and respond to any deterioration

Further detail is on the website of the Ministry for the Environment.

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