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  • Andrew von Dadelszen

Next Steps for Fresh Water – we need to be vigilant

Central Government has a consultation document out, proposing legislative change to improve the management of New Zealand’s rivers, lakes, aquifers and wetlands. Currently New Zealanders only use 2% of our rainfall (water), and yet in specific places there is a real shortage of available water for allocation; and we need to manage both water quality better, as well as improve efficiency of use.

I was heartened to hear the proposal for regional and unitary councils to be required to heed to “national standards”, but I am a bit sceptical of these same councils complying with this national framework. History tells us that our councils have been notoriously poor in the past, using their risk-averse and cost-plus mentality to overly complicate what should be straight forward legislation. It is my view that Central Government is taking a “soft option” on this, and that they would have been better to strengthen the powers of the Environmental Protection Authority to administer this. I know that the EPA has also struggled to effectively manage their mandate, but the track record of local authorities managing the RMA tells me that we are going to have to be vigilant to protect the rights of all New Zealanders with this current proposition. This is one of the primary reasons that I have decided to once again stand for election as one of your Regional Councillors – I am concerned that our current bunch will likely “roll over” on issues such as water allocation.

The proposal is for Regional & Unitary Councils to manage both water quality and water quantity issues, but with strengthened national requirements. Historically each regional council has set its own rules and limits, and these have not been consistent across the country. The Minister for the Environment (Hon Dr Nick Smith) and the Minister for Primary Industries (Hon Nathan Guy) announced at the Bluegreens Forum on 20th February 23 initiatives to legislate for better environmental rules for fresh water. These include:

  • National regulations to get stock out of waterways – with a determined timetable for compliance, and appropriate enforcement requirements

  • Strengthening the national requirements on councils to set limits

  • Standardised water permit conditions on the efficient use of water and minimising nutrient loss

  • Improved iwi involvement in council development of water plans and water conservation orders

  • An additional $100m clean-up fund for lakes, rivers and wetlands

If you have a view on these or any other local government issues, I invite you to email me.

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