New Zealand has plenty of water but not all of it’s in the right place at the right time; and not all of it is as clean as it should be.
The need for better management of water is clear, the best way to do it is somewhat less so, but the Land and Water Forum’s report, A Fresh Start for Water, is a good place to start.
It was welcomed by Agriculture Minister David Carter and Environment Minister Nick Smith.
“The Land and Water Forum has achieved a first in New Zealand – consensus on a way forward for managing freshwater,” Dr Smith said.
“The Government initiated this collaborative process because the long term success of future water policies relies on broad agreement at a national level. Improving water management is one of the Government’s top environmental and economic priorities. Finding durable solutions to issues of water quality, allocation and storage are essential to a healthy environment and our long-term economic progress.
“All 58 groups associated with the Land and Water Forum, led by its Chair Alastair Bisley, are to be congratulated for the report. Water is such a complex and polarising issue and to reach agreement is a major achievement.”
Getting 58 groups with a diverse range of views to collaborate let alone reach agreement on a report is amazing.
The report says:
It is in all our interests to maintain and improve the quality of freshwater in New Zealand, including instream values. For that we need limits, standards and targets in line with national needs, values and objectives which are applied taking account of the needs, values and objectives of communities. They must address contaminants and flows.
Setting limits will require us to address degradation in some areas, but will enable more resource use in others. Limits need to be clear enough to achieve certainty, but able to be adapted in the face of new information and new technology development.
It recommends the adoption of a standards framework which:
Stems from a strategic view of water for New Zealand
• Defines national objectives for the environmental state of our water bodies and the overall timeframes within which to achieve them through National Policy Statements (NPS’s) and National Environmental Standards (NES’s) made under the Resource Management Act (RMA)
• Requires regions to give effect to this national framework at regional to catchment (or sub-catchment) level taking into account the spatial variation in biophysical characteristics of their water bodies and their current state
• Within that framework, requires regions to engage communities, including iwi, about the ways in which their water bodies are valued, and to work collaboratively with relevant land and water users and interested parties to set catchment-specific targets, standards and limits
• Maintains regional councils’ control of the use of land for the purpose of the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of water in water bodies and the maintenance of the quantity of water in water bodies and coastal water.
Federated Farmers’ co-spokesman on water issues Lachlan McKenzie says:
The report signals greater use of collaborative processes in water policy-making and implementation at national, local and catchment levels.
“For farmers, this is actually great news because involving landowners in any process is essential where policy outcomes could directly affect their property and what they can do with their land. Given this, it’s only fair and right landowners take charge of implementing any changes that may result.
“Real progress also starts with decision making and how communities are informed. Above all else, how the resourcefulness and innovative capacity of New Zealanders to develop local solutions will be tapped into.
“On-farm, farmers have to look at stock and effluent management systems tailored to location, including fencing waterways where practical. Reducing our effluent disposal risks will lead to better nutrient utilisation and increased pasture growth.
No-one is denying that some farm practices can, and do, degrade waterways. What is often overlooked is that rural people have a personal interest in the quality and quantity of fresh water because the rivers we neighbour provide water for our farms and our homes.
“Yet some activists conveniently seem to look through the impact of New Zealand’s third most numerous large mammal, Homosapien. This is not a ‘them and us’ blame culture that has coloured perception, but a realisation that we all rely on the environment.
Pollution from human and industrial waste is an issue which needs to be addressed too.
“Collaboration is a useful process that can result in more enduring and widely accepted outcomes, while saving significant amounts of money and time.
“Collaboration, like consultation however, does not equal agreement and there has not been agreement on all the issues identified in the report.
Feds took part in the forum but hasn’t signed up to the report because it wants to consult farmers on the recommendations and get feedback first.
The government is also waiting for feedback.
The report is a good start but there’s a long way to go before it turns into concrete policy.
Water New Zealand’s response is here.
Forest & Bird’s response is here.