Freshwater reform flowing through – new Government confirms another National Policy Statement for freshwater is on the cards
In our December update, we considered what reforms could be in store for the management of New Zealand's freshwater resources under the new Government. Improving the quality of New Zealand's rivers and lakes was a particularly contentious topic during the election campaign and a range of reforms were signalled in Labour's coalition and confidence and supply agreements with New Zealand First and the Greens.
The most significant reform proposal was a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM), to replace the existing NPSFM 2014. Labour provided some limited details on its proposal in its election manifesto, most notably that the new document would be based on the "Sheppard version" proposed by a Board of Inquiry chaired by retired Environment Judge Sheppard in 2010.
The Minister for the Environment, Hon David Parker, has this week released more details regarding the development of a new NPSFM.
Most significantly, the Minister confirmed the Government is working towards a "formal" release of a strengthened NPSFM by the middle of this year. The Minister also confirmed the "good changes" to the NPSFM 2014 made by the former Government in its last term would be retained (without providing any detail as to what those "good changes" are). On top of this, the new NPSFM will contain standards for additional contaminants and the contaminants already covered by the NPSFM 2014 (such as nitrogen and E.coli) will be subject to stricter standards.
The Minister confirmed that the new NPSFM would impose consenting requirements on all proposals for livestock intensification (presently, intensification in some regions is a permitted activity). Methods to encourage a shift in rural land use towards more high-value horticultural production were also flagged.
The development of the new NPSFM will continue to be closely watched, including by the primary production, power generation, tourism and other industries, local authorities and municipal water suppliers, and environmental and community groups, all of whom have different and competing interests. The process is almost certain to be contentious and it will be important for parties with interests in freshwater management to engage actively in the new document's development.
Please get in touch with one of our experts if you would like any further information on the new NPSFM and its potential implications for your business.
This publication is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.