Environmental / Resource Management

NPS For Freshwater Management 2011

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 (NPS) was announced recently and will take effect from 1 July 2011. Primarily the NPS makes Regional Councils (RCs) responsible for setting enforceable quality and quantity limits for freshwater water bodies within their regions. The NPS also addresses the allocation, transfer of water take rights and the reduction of over allocation of water bodies.

Scope of the NPS

To give effect to the NPS, RCs are directed to amend regional plans using the process in Schedule 1 of the RMA. Until those changes become operative the interim policies set out at A4 (discharge consents) and B7 (water allocation) of the NPS must be inserted without using the Schedule 1 process.

Water quality

RCs are required to make or change provisions of regional plans to establish:

  • freshwater objectives and set freshwater quality limits to give effect to NPS objectives
  • methods to avoid over allocation
  • rules to ensure best practicable options are adopted to prevent or minimise the adverse effects of discharges of contaminants entering freshwater.

Where water bodies cannot meet the new objectives set in regional plans, RCs must include targets, timeframes and methods to improve water quality so that those water bodies can meet the targets.

Water quantity

RCs are required to make or change provisions of regional plans to establish:

  • freshwater objectives, and set environmental flows and/or levels for bodies of freshwater to give effect to NPS objectives, which include, avoiding over allocation, phasing out existing over allocation, maximising efficient allocation and use of water, and protecting the significant values of wetlands
  • allocation limits and minimum flows for freshwater bodies within their regions
  • allocation of freshwater to activities within the set flows and/or levels
  • criteria for the approval of the transfer of water take permits
  • methods to encourage efficient use of water.

RCs must also define timelines and methods to phase out any over allocation.

Integrated management

The NPS also seeks to integrate management of freshwater and the use and development of land. Regional Policy Statements are to be changed to the extent necessary to provide for integrated management including, encouraging the co-ordination and sequencing of regional and/or urban growth, land use and development, and the provision of infrastructure.

Tangata Whenua

Local authorities must take reasonable steps to ensure iwi and hapu are involved in freshwater and freshwater ecosystem management. This includes identification of tangata whenua values and interests, and reflection of those values and interests in freshwater and freshwater ecosystem management and decision-making.

Implementation

RCs are required to implement the NPS as promptly as reasonable in the circumstances. However if a RC considers it impracticable to implement all NPS policies by 31 December 2014, the RC may implement time limited staging so that all NPS policies are fully implemented by 31 December 2030.

If a RC determines to introduce staged implementation it must formally adopt a programme to do so by November 2012 and report annually on the extent to which the programme has been met.

Wider policy initiatives

The NPS was announced as part of a package of reforms. The Government package includes:

  • 'Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean Up Fund': intended to assist RCs with historic pollution problems. The Government announced a clean-up commitment of $264m including existing and ongoing commitments. The fund includes a new sum of $7.5m contestable for each of the next two years, but no decisions on the level of funding beyond 2013 have been made. Applications will be open from June 2011.
  • 'Irrigation Acceleration Fund': intended to assist the development of proposals for water irrigation infrastructure. This fund, operated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, comprises $35m over five years. Applications will be open from June 2011.
  • As a final measure the Government has indicated it will consider a future budget investment of up to $400m of direct equity into the construction of regional-scale schemes to encourage third party investment.

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The contents of this publication are general in nature and are not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice on a specific matter. In the absence of such advice no responsibility is accepted by Brookfields for reliance on any of the information provided in this publication.

 

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