A new approach by groups including Forest & Bird, industries, iwi, farmers and other groups has been charting a new course for the management of freshwater.
The Land and Water Forum (LWF) was set up in 2009 by the Government and asked to work collaboratively to draw up agreed options to halt and reverse the present general decline in lowland freshwater quality.
Two of the major issues affecting water quality are the amount of water being removed from rivers and other water bodies and the pollution that finds its way back into water bodies from human activity including agriculture, sewerage, wastewater and industrial discharges.
The LWF is made up of 68 organisations, including 5 river iwi, conservation and recreation groups and agriculture, hydro and other development organisations. A small group of 21 organisations has met more regularly and has done much of the policy development work along with representatives of local and central government.
Forest & Bird’s Advocacy Manager, Kevin Hackwell represented Forest & Bird in the small group and is one of the four trustees of the Land and Water Forum Trust.
The forum’s first report: -
- Outlined an agreement that by all the forum participants that national standards and limits need to be set to improve water quality
- Included a recommendation for a strong regulatory framework to accompany voluntary actions and a recommendation that water management must be underpinned by a National Policy Statement (NPS)
The government responded in May 2011 by accepting the report and announcing an NPS on freshwater.
A second LWF report in May 2012 outlined in greater detail the necessary changes -
- It mapped out a vision for the management for freshwater
- It recommended bottom lines to ensure all water bodies have good ecological health
- Ultimately, it was decided it would be up to communities to decide what level of water quality they want above the minimum. They would be responsible for setting limits on takes and discharges.
These decisions would be made through collaborative processes to try to encourage win-win outcomes rather than outcomes that divide stakeholders into winners and losers and to try to avoid expensive legal action as is common under the current system.
The third and final report of the LWF was delivered to the Government in October 2012. It focussed on ways of managing freshwater within the new limits regime by improving management practices, including developing better ways of allocating and transferring authorisations to use water.
Forest & Bird hopes that the Government will adopt all of the forum’s recommendations.