6 August 2020

Ministry for the Environment announces new rules to restore healthy rivers

ORC welcomes the gazettal of the ‘Action for Healthy Waterways’ regulations, which are designed to restore and protect the health of New Zealand waterways. This milestone will provide welcome certainty and clarity for our rural communities.

Water quality in Otago is generally very good, and our community has consistently told us how much they value healthy waterways for recreation, drinking water and mahinga kai. The intent of this new framework is that degradation of our waterways stops now, and we will need to work together to achieve that and the improvement we all want to see.

Achieving healthy waterways for Otago is everyone’s responsibility. ORC is responsible for implementing the new regulations and rules and monitoring compliance, but the effort to comply needs to be combined between ORC, our rural landowners and our urban residents. We recognise we cannot leave this to our communities, and we will need to work alongside groups to assist in ways that include tools in addition to the regulatory tools the government has provided.

Our packed freshwater work program, which includes plan changes currently open for submissions, and a new Land and Water Regional Plan to be notified by 2023, positions us well to incorporate the Action for Healthy Waterways rules into our regional planning framework.

Importantly, too, we have a $200k investment in Catchment Group work for this year, and a $31m funding bid in partnership with Iwi and stakeholders with the Ministry for the Environment to assist Otago with work to improve water quality in our communities.

Read the announcement from the ministry here. 

Read the gazettal here.

The reforms include the new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-FW), stock exclusion regulations, and regulations in the measurement and reporting of water takes.

Significant policies that now have legal backing include:

  • Requiring councils to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai by prioritising the health and wellbeing of our waterways
  • Halting further loss of natural wetlands and streams
  • Setting higher health standards at swimming spots
  • Putting controls on high-risk farm practices such as winter grazing and feedlots
  • Setting stricter controls on nitrogen pollution and new bottom lines on other measures of waterway health
  • Requiring urban waterways to be cleaned up and new protections for urban streams
  • Preserving and restoring the connectivity of New Zealand fish species’ habitats
  • Requiring mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans
  • Making real-time measuring and reporting of data on water use mandatory.

Some of the new rules will take effect from 3 September 2020, while there is a longer timeframe for others.