By Daniel Collins
The Government recently released the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (2014). The policy provides the most comprehensive instructions to regional councils yet on how our freshwaters – rivers, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers – are to be managed. Amendments made in the new policy include numerical thresholds and bottom-lines for a range of water quality attributes in order to meet human and ecosystem health objectives (referred to as the National Objectives Framework, NOF). This was a key recommendation of the Land and Water Forum.
Reception of the new policy has been mixed, with freshwater scientists and stakeholders alike seeing improvements and shortcomings. To read the various comments to date, see the Government press release, the Science Media Centre’s collation of scientist comments, and the press releases from Dairy NZ, the Environment Defence Society, Forest and Bird NZ, Irrigation NZ, and the NZ Planning Institute. Their positive and negative feedback is summarised below, though more public statements are likely in the future.
|Positive feedback||Negative feedback|
Among the new challenges thus become identifying which of the negative criticisms are simply misunderstandings, which fall on regional councils to resolve in their limit-setting process, which criticisms should indeed be remedied, and what policy or scientific remedies should be adopted. As Paul Reynolds, Ministry for the Environment, wrote last year, the development of this policy is deeply indebted to on-going scientific input. Implementing the NPS-FM to meet community needs will take further input from the scientific community. And as Clive Howard-Williams, Chief Scientist for Freshwater and Estuaries at NIWA, commented in relation to the recent policy announcement:
“The NPS-FM and the challenges it provides in demanding regional councils set freshwater quality limits is providing a spur to freshwater scientists to provide the evidence base for implementation of the policy.”
Dr Daniel Collins is a hydrologist and water resources scientist at NIWA.