In the middle of 2019 the Government announced a number of proposals for improving freshwater management. This included changes to the Resource Management Act, national policy guidance and standards. Proposals included a strengthened National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the introduction of a National Environmental Standard, and regulations for stock exclusion from waterways.
These sought to better provide for ecosystem health, Māori values, and wetlands by strengthening the management of farming and land use change, farm management practices, and how councils reticulated services, such as stormwater and wastewater, affect the quality and quantity of freshwater.
How this affects the district is complicated. Plan Change 1 to the Waikato Regional Plan implements Te Ture Whaimana – The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River and is still being processed. That plan change only applies to the portion of the district located in the Waikato River Catchment. The Government’s proposals take different approaches to plan changes already under way that already reflect what it is proposing. However, it is likely that amendments to the content of Plan Change 1 will be required to meet the new provisions. For the remainder of the district, mostly in the Waihou Catchment, the new provisions will apply as plan changes have not yet been undertaken.
Council lodged an extensive submission that told the ‘South Waikato story’ to the Government. Read our submission here. This is guided by the approach used in Council’s submissions and evidence to Plan Change 1 (follow this link for more on Plan Change 1). These are, that appropriate freshwater management requires:
- Effects-based provisions that accommodate changes in land use activity, provide for multiple land use opportunities, innovation and diversification, and can be supported by sustainable land management practices.
- A sub catchment approach to managing the four contaminants.
- A sensible, practical, certain, fair and simple implementation regime with realistic timeframes for reporting and deadlines for compliance needs to be provided.
- Methods of implementation that are affordable to land owners and communities and minimises the impacts on the social, economic and cultural well-being of communities.
- A framework that can satisfy the matters in section 32 RMA5 to inform decision-making that the Plan Change and or alternative approaches are fit for purpose to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
Council's view is that the Government’s proposals will:
- Increase costs and uncertainty further and other negative social impacts on our community;
- Not improve the management of freshwater;
- Not achieve the outcomes sought for freshwater; and
- Not reflect sustainable management.
The provisions are at this stage in draft, but likely to approved in some form by the middle of 2020.