Legislation, Policy and Plans for Freshwater that growers need to be aware of
Each of the headers below is a link through to the piece of legislation, policy or plan it refers to.
The future of water management under the Labour government’s Essential freshwater plan is seeing enormous change. It will affect growers at the ground level through both central government policy and regional planning regimes with new legislation and fresh water planning process.
Action for healthy waterways is the Government’s programme to change national direction for freshwater management. A discussion document was released in September 2019 and proposed significant changes to our national freshwater management framework. The Government consulted widely during 2019 receiving feedback and submissions on their proposed regulations.
The avocado industry’s submission focused on the timelines for consultation and change, opposing proposed consenting restrictions for new irrigated developments, support for extending existing GAP schemes to deliver Farm Environment Plans and recognition of horticulture’s low water quality impacts in relation to future nitrogen limits.
On May 28, 2020 Government announced its decisions on freshwater management. In general, the decisions are pragmatic in their approach to achieving the freshwater improvements that all New Zealanders want.
To read more about this programme and the policy mechanisms that will deliver this change, click here.
The Resource Management Act (RMA) is New Zealand’s principle legislation for managing the environment.
The government is planning to reform this legislation in 2 stages:
Resource Management amendment Bill: to reduce complexity, restore public participation and improve resource management
• Government- appointed freshwater commissioners to form a panel with council and tangata whenua-nominated representatives to consider council plans, hear submissions and make recommendations.
• There would be restricted appeal opportunities on freshwater related regional plans
Reforms: will involve a review to be led by a panel of experts who will deliver a plan by mid-2020 to address
- Urban development
- Environmental bottom lines
- Effective participation ( incl. by iwi)
Government have said that councils must have new plans that are consistent with Te Mana o te Wai (“the mana of water”) in place no later than 2025.
The NPS-Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) was developed by Government to give councils guidance, direction and a degree of clarification around implementing how they manage water under the RMA at a regional level. Proposals for a new NPS-FM that will be in force in 2020 are part of this new consultation package and they include:
• Amendments that address risks of water quality decline, including setting limits on resource use and better protect wetlands and estuaries
• Require the use of good management practices
As part of the proposed changes to the NPS-FM the Government proposes to raise the bar on ecosystem health for water ways.
Te Mana o te Wai as a concept was introduced to the NPS-FM in 2014.
This is a concept for freshwater that encompasses several different aspects of the integrated and holistic health and wellbeing of a water body, including putting the ‘rights’ of the river/stream, first. It is up to communities and councils to consider and recognise Te Mana o te Wai in their regions. At the same time the NPS-FM requires councils to increase the involvement of tangata whenua, as kaitiaki, in the planning and management of freshwater. Enabling
The NES is a regulation made under the Resource Management Act (1991) that sets requirements for the way that some activities may be carried out. Conditions and restrictions in the NES manage the environmental effects of these activities, which can include effects on water quality.
There is a proposed National Environmental Standards for Freshwater. It sets out potential regulations that are part of a package of proposed freshwater regulations set out in Action for healthy waterways: a discussion document on national direction for our essential freshwater. The areas to be considered in the NES include managing intensification, farm environment plans and a default regime for ecological flows and levels.
What is this?
The purpose of a Regional Natural Resources Plan is to promote the sustainable and integrated management of land and water resources in this region covers soil (land), rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, groundwater, geothermal, natural hazards and air. A regional plan assists a regional council to carry out its functions in order to deliver its responsibilities to government for the sustainable management of its natural resources under the Resource Management Act.
Bay of Plenty
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has a number of changes to its RNRP in progress. Plan change 9 is the one most relevant to avocado growers.
Region-wide Water Quantity Plan Change – Plan Change 9 has been WITHDRAWN (18 Feb 2020)
Proposed Plan Change 9 (PC9) looked to improve how the allocation of water was managed in the region and ensure it is being used efficiently. It was designed as an interim measure and was notified in October 2018. It was subject to appeal in the Environment Court and has been withdrawn.
Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee listed the reasons for withdrawal as:
- Fundamental differences of opinion remain on key issues which are unlikely to be resolved without proceeding to court.
- Resolution of outstanding appeals is unlikely to occur until after the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is gazetted and implementation underway.
- Continuing to pursue the resolution of the appeals would therefore be an inefficient use of resources, given new national direction on fresh water is imminent.
- Future processes and associated plan change(s) following the gazettal of the NPSFM will enable better integration of water quality and water quantity and provide greater clarity in relation to Te Mana o Te Wai, which has been a key issue in the appeals.
- Withdrawing PC9 will not create a planning vacuum, consents will continue to be processed under the operative plan having regard to the current NPS-FM.
What growers need to know
- Resource consents granted under PC9 are still VALID
- Consent conditions associated with these consents are VALID and must be adhered to
- Rules and other provisions in the operative Regional Natural Resource Plan (RNRP) remain current – if you take more than 15m3/day of water from a stream or dam, or more than 35m3/day from a bore you need a resource consent
- All applications to take water will now be processed as a discretionary activities and may be declined, even without the ‘generally decline ‘ policy of PC9
- Applicants will need to bring robust evidence that the proposed allocation is sustainable and efficient use of water.
- If you are required to meter your water use, it is important to keep daily records and report as required to the Regional Council
- Good metering records help growers manage water use, remain compliant and supports future applications when it comes time for consent renewal.
If you have further questions contact Sue Simpson BOPRC Planning Coordinator on Sue.Simpson@boprc.govt.nz 0800884881 extn 8318
EXPECTATIONS ARE LIKELY TO INCREASE UNDER NEW GOVERNMENT POLICY.
GROWERS SHOULD NOT BE COMPLACENT IN THEIR APPROACH TO WATER MANAGEMENT.
RULES AROUND AVAILABILITY, EFFICIENT USE AND MONITORING REQUIREMENTS WILL ONLY INCREASE.
The Northland Regional Council has a Proposed Regional Plan for the whole region and once operative it will replace the three current Air Quality Plan, Coastal Plan and Water and Soil Plan.
It contains rules that set whether a resource consent is needed for activities and sets out the policy that applies to consent applications.
It also contains
- Interim allocation limits and minimum flows/levels for surface and groundwater.
- Policy and rules for taking and use of fresh water
- Policy and rules to manage land disturbance (such as earthworks, vegetation clearance and preparation for cultivation)
- Policy and rules to manage the effects of discharges to land, water and air (such as wastewater and use of agrichemicals)
- Policy and rules for the protection of high value waterbodies (such as outstanding lakes, rivers and wetlands).
The Northland Regional Council chose to defer a number of water quality related provisions to a future plan change process given government policy direction changed just prior to notification of the Proposed Regional Plan in 2017.
Indicative water quantity allocation maps for surface and groundwater these maps show the current level of allocation in relation to limits in the Proposed Regional Plan. See: https://www.nrc.govt.nz/your-council/about-us/council-projects/new-regional-plan/indicative-water-quantity-allocation-maps/
Current status of the Proposed Regional Plan
This is an appeals version of the Proposed Regional Plan:
Parts of the plan are under appeal to the Environment Court. The regional council has identified which parts of the plan have been appealed and which can be said to be operative. This is shown through shading within this version indicating which provisions are directly under appeal to the Environment Court. However, please note that additional provisions may be captured as a result of any consequential amendments arising from the outcome of an appeal.