“Swimmable” freshwater reforms announced

The Government is seeking feedback on its Clean Water Package 2017. The Package is part of the Government’s programme to improve freshwater management in New Zealand, and follows the introduction of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management in 2014.

The consultation document contains new maps and information on the current water quality for swimming, provides detail of policy proposals for excluding stock from waterways, and invites applications for use of the recently established Freshwater Improvement Fund.

Swimmable target

A big focus of the Clean Water Package is improving freshwater quality to swimmable levels. “Swimmable” is defined as meeting the guideline values for rivers and lakes (respectively) more than 80% of the time. The guideline values are based on the concentration of E. coli (which indicates the likely presence of Campylobacter) in rivers, and toxic allergens (which have the potential to cause human illness) in lakes. The consultation document proposes different swimmable categories (ranging from poor to excellent) which indicate water cleanliness.

The Government proposes to leave to regional councils the detail of how this objective is to be achieved. Councils will be tasked with advising the Government by 2018 how the swimmable targets within their respective region can be met. It is also proposed that regional councils monitor and report on how often lakes and rivers within their jurisdiction are suitable for swimming, and identify in regional plans lakes and rivers that will be improved so they are suitable for swimming more often (with corresponding timeframes for that improvement).

Freshwater NPS

The consultation document proposes a suite of amendments to the NPS for Freshwater Management 2014. The amendments incorporate the proposed target of 90% of freshwater bodies being swimmable by 2040, and propose a new objective and policy calling for the improvement of freshwater quality and requiring regional councils to make or amend plans to ensure that large freshwater bodies are suitable for immersion more often.

Next steps

Submissions close at 5:00pm on 28 April 2017. Please contact ChanceryGreen should you require assistance with preparing a submission, or call one of our team to discuss.

Posted on April 4, 2017 .