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

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.

Resource Management Act (1991)

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.

National Policy Statement for freshwater Management (NPS-FM)

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 and reflecting Maori values in freshwater planning

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

National Environmental Standards (NES)

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.