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Essential Freshwater Package Implementation Underway

We have started the journey towards implementing the Government’s new freshwater policy package.

Our Chair, Jenny Hughey, said the engagement and implementation plan was underway in Canterbury and involved many moving parts.

“While much good work has been done here, there is more to do,” she said. “First we must fully understand how the concept of Te Mana o te Wai applies in Canterbury. This is central to the national direction it is incumbent on us to deliver."

Te Mana o te Wai refers to the vital importance of water. We must manage freshwater in a way that prioritises (in this order):

  • the health and well-being of water;
  • the health needs of people, and;
  • the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.

Guiding principles to strengthen Te Mana o te Wai

The new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) establishes a set of guiding principles and a hierarchy of obligations. The NPSFM strengthens and clarifies Te Mana o te Wai by requiring regional councils to:

  • set a long-term (inter-generational) vision for water that is informed by aspirations of tangata whenua and communities for what the waterbodies should look like in future, an understanding of current pressures, and an understanding of the waterbodies’ history
  • report on progress towards the long-term vision
  • investigate options for tangata whenua involvement such as joint management agreements, and publicly report on decisions around whether to use these options.

Understanding how Te Mana o te Wai applies in Canterbury

“We are now working with our partner Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Papatipu Rūnanga to build our understanding of Te Mana o te Wai in Canterbury, and how it should be given effect to,” Chair Hughey said.

“We are already seeing high demand for advice, particularly from those applying for or thinking about applying for resource consents. As we build our understanding, we will update our guidance to help these people.”

Those making decisions on consents must now have regard to the relevant provisions of the NPSFM and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F).

The decision-maker must weigh up several factors. Considerable weight must be given to the principles of Te Mana o te Wai.

Considering Te Mana o te Wai in the consent process

In order to appropriately incorporate this new direction into resource consent decisions, people applying for consent, or with consents in process, should assess these documents and how their proposed activities give effect to Te Mana o te Wai and the hierarchy of obligations, Chair Hughey said.

“We also need people to check whether they require consent under the NES-F, and to apply for those consents when they apply for any consents they need under the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan."

To help with these requirements, we will be contacting those with consents in process to explain what we need and why, and we will also be working closely with consultant groups. Further detailed guidance will be provided as we work through this, she said.

"It’s reassuring that we have an adaptable consenting process and that our community is accustomed to considering the impact of their activities on water quality outcomes.

“In Canterbury we’re well on the way towards achieving what the Government is asking of us, but there is still much to do,” Chair Hughey concluded.

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