The beauty and variety of New Zealand’s rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries, and aquifers is integral to our national identity. The ‘clean green’ brand on which our tourism industry relies is underpinned by images of clear clean water. Water is the lifeblood of our agriculture. And we value being able to swim, fish and gather mahinga kai in many places across the country.
To its credit, the Government has invested heavily in developing policy to improve the management of fresh water. A National Policy Statement (NPS) was introduced in 2011 with an objective of maintaining or improving water quality. Then in 2014 the NPS was given real heft with the addition of a framework proposed by the Land and Water Forum – a framework that introduced ‘bottom lines’ for water quality.
The 2014 NPS is a major step forward. Some regional councils have already begun to act, and there is a real sense of momentum. However, we are not out of the woods yet. Some lakes and streams are below bottom lines and many others are not far above them. In many water bodies water quality continues to decline, making the task of improving it that much harder and more costly.
This report is an examination of six aspects of the 2014 NPS, focussed on elements that are absent or unclear. The last section contains six recommendations.