Because all regional councils are working to the same deadline to notify changes to their freshwater policy, there is a lot happening and we expect this to keep us very busy for at least two years.
NZKGI works closely with HortNZ on freshwater policy. In their newsletter HortNZ provides an update of all of the policy changes that they are working on across the country, and this includes freshwater policy.
In the sections below we provide a summary of progress for each regional council, with links to HortNZ’s newsletters as appropriate.
In September 2020, the Government released a National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM). This directs how regional councils must manage freshwater and activities that affect freshwater.
All councils must now give effect to the NPS-FM, and councils will be updating their regional rules to give effect to stricter national targets. The rules are expected to address the decline in water quality that has occurred in some catchments, and also to ensure that the amount of water taken from rivers and groundwater leaves sufficient water to support ecosystem health and other important values within those water bodies.
In accordance with the national direction, councils are required to set out long term visions for freshwater, values-based outcomes, measurable water quality targets, water quantity flows, levels and limits, rules and methods to achieve them.
This means that the land and freshwater objectives, policies and rules in Regional Policy Statements and Regional Plans will change. New water quality targets and limits will be added, and you will likely see some changes to water take limits and minimum flow requirements. Rules and methods will be established to ensure these limits are met. Changes to the policies and rules must be formally notified in 2024.
From a practical perspective, the new policy could affect your ability to irrigate your orchard both in terms of whether there is allocable water available, and also in terms of how reliable your consented surface water take is during dry periods when the river flow approaches the minimum flow. The new policy also has the potential to affect how much nitrogen you can apply to your orchard through fertliser and compost. In addition, you might find that the existing rules around earthworks for developing orchards may change to address potential sediment loss.
Your regional council will likely be organising consultation meetings now or in the near future to discuss the options and the proposed changes that could be heading your way. We encourage you to attend these meetings so that you can fully understand what your council is proposing, how the new policy may affect you and so that you can have your say.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council
BOPRC has produced 13 Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) stories and has recently completed a series of engagement meetings. NZKGI’s submission can be found here.
BOPRC is currently working on a draft plan change and indications are that this may be available for comment around late January/early February.
You can stay up to date with BOPRC’s Essential Freshwater package, and the work that BOPRC is doing to restore and protect freshwater by subscribing to the freshwater flash here.
Auckland Regional Council
Auckland Council is seeking feedback on the next phase of their NPSFM 2020 plan development. It is important that growers provide feedback to Council about the importance of water to their businesses. Consultation closes on Monday 4 December. You can find more information here.
Tasman District Council
Tasman District Council is consulting on the 21 draft environmental outcomes developed to support the freshwater values identified through previous consultation. It is important that growers feedback to Council about the importance of water to their businesses. The consultation will be open until Thursday 30 November 2023. You can find more information here.
Northland Regional Council
The draft freshwater plan for Northland is out for consultation until Monday 4 March and there are a number of online and in person events that growers can attend to obtain an understanding of the changes to the plan. You can read more information here.
Information current as of November 2023