Thursday, April 18, 2024

Feedback sought on Northland freshwater rules

Public feedback is being sought by Northland Regional Council on a draft Freshwater Plan Change that includes new rules and targets to improve the health of Northland’s rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater.

Changes to the way freshwater is managed is a requirement of the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020, which directs that freshwater health be maintained and improved where it is degraded.

Council Chair, Tui Shortland says most of Northland’s streams, rivers and lakes are in a poor state.

“The strong message from tangata whenua, communities and the government is that we must improve the health of freshwater to provide habitats for our native plants and animals, safeguard the health of our communities, and enhance our resilience to climate change.”

She says the draft Freshwater Plan Change sets out what council thinks the new vision, outcomes, limits and rules should be.

“Alongside it is a draft Action Plan, which identifies other actions Northland Regional Council could take to help improve freshwater health.”

Councillor, Amy Macdonald, who chairs the council’s Natural Resources Working Party, says for more than two years the council has been getting feedback and advice from tangata whenua, government, industry, environmental groups, and communities on what the draft Freshwater Plan Change should cover.

Two groups in particular guided its development:

  • The Tangata Whenua Water Advisory Group. Established in 2020, this group of tangata whenua technical experts from Te Taitokerau has a wide range of freshwater kaitiaki expertise and experience. They provided advice and recommendations for the draft Freshwater Plan. (Read their reports: www.nrc.govt.nz/TWWAGreports)
  • The Primary Sector Liaison Group. Made up of representatives from primary sector industry organisations, this group provided a report outlining the issues facing the primary sector and some initial ideas about the plan. (Read their report: www.nrc.govt.nz/PSLGreport)

“We acknowledge all those who have contributed to this draft plan, and we have listened carefully to all the perspectives and recommendations put forward,” Chair Shortland says.

“Now, we need to give everyone in Te Taitokerau an opportunity to help us refine the plan. We’d particularly like feedback on new rules for managing stock around waterways.”

Councillor Macdonald says while the rules need to change to improve freshwater health, “we know new rules will have a big impact on landowners”.

“The more we do, the greater the environmental benefits – but the higher the financial costs.

“We need your input to make decisions that will work for our community as well as our waterways.”

The council will be seeking feedback on the draft Freshwater Plan Change from 1 November 2023 until 4 March 2024. Feedback on the draft will be used to develop the next version of the plan which will be notified for public submissions in late 2024.

Once finalised, the Freshwater Plan Change will sit alongside other initiatives for improving freshwater, including:

  • the many tangata whenua and community-led initiatives;
  • Freshwater Farm Plans;
  • Government’s policy direction and regulations;
  • support for landowners (e.g. the Kaipara Moana Remediation programme);
  • industry-led initiatives.

Meanwhile, Chair Shortland says as kaitiaki and rangatira, tangata whenua have responsibilities to protect freshwater and the council is committed to improve how it involves tangata whenua in looking after freshwater.

“The draft Freshwater Plan Change supports tangata whenua to participate in managing freshwater and upholds our obligations as a Te Tiriti partner.”

She says this means enabling tangata whenua to participate actively in freshwater management and decision-making so whānau, marae, hapū and iwi can fulfil their roles and responsibilities through mātauranga Māori, kawa and tikanga.

“Tangata whenua have told us there has been huge loss to the mauri of wai māori (freshwater), ecosystems and taonga species that rely on wai.”

Chair Shortland says at the heart of Government’s new direction for managing freshwater is the concept of Te Mana o Te Wai.

“We are required to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai in developing the Freshwater Plan.”

She says Te Mana o Te Wai is about protecting the mauri (life force) of the wai, and restoring the balance between water, our environment and our communities.

“It puts the health of the water first, providing for human health needs second, and other uses of water third.”

“The kaupapa includes actively involving tangata whenua in freshwater management and decision-making.

“We have adopted this kaupapa for Te Taitokerau as Te Mana me te Mauri o te Wai.”

Councillor Macdonald says people can visit wai-it-matters.nz for more information and to give feedback online, or email freshwater@nrc.govt.nz.

Alternatively, feedback can be given via a printed feedback form or in person by contacting the council on (0800) 002 004 or by dropping in to one of its offices at Whangārei, Dargaville, Kaitaia or Waipapa.

Council representatives will be available to provide more information and answer questions at online and in-person hui during the consultation period, and at community events throughout the summer. People can find details at wai-it-matters.nz.

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