New Zealanders pride themselves on the quality of their environment yet an increasing number of pressures, such as population growth and more intensive agriculture, could, without the appropriate regulatory frameworks, put the environment at risk. Specific issues include freshwater quality, bio-diversity, introduced pests, natural hazards and the impact of our changing climate.
The quality of the environment is largely the responsibility of local authorities, with territorial authorities and regional councils playing complementary roles. These roles are largely determined by the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). The RMA has been subject to major tinkering and now needs major reform, as highlighted in LGNZ’s analysis. In fulfilling these responsibilities local government works collaboratively with central government, iwi and other stakeholders.
Climate change poses an unprecedented level of risk to New Zealand’s natural and built environment. As the sphere of government with direct responsibility for environmental planning and regulation much of the responsibility for adaption falls to local government, however, councils cannot address these issues by themselves. A national conversation is required. Councils can also play an important role in mitigation by working with their communities to reduce emissions.
To be effective, climate adaptation will require a diverse range of actions and policy approaches.
Responding to the challenges posed by rising sea levels requires a consistent information base, innovative solutions and dialogue to agree on funding options. To that end, local government sees a critical need for proactive collaboration between central and local government, and between city, district and regional councils.
Water quality is, and will continue to be, one of the defining political issues for governments and councils over the foreseeable future, with political parties taking firm positions on the need to improve quality. Recently the Government has set a national water quality target of 90 per cent swimmability by 2040, which will impact directly on local government and its communities. Improving water quality represents major challenges for both regional and territorial councils, yet New Zealand lacks an overall integrated framework for the future management and allocation of its water resources.
The Government policy and regulatory decisions so far represent a useful start, however, major issues involve the costs and trade-offs involved in increasing water standards and the resulting impact on local communities, families and business, as well as our wastewater and stormwater systems.
To address this gap LGNZ has undertaken the Water 2050 project to create a comprehensive framework that brings freshwater issues and water infrastructure into a coherent policy that integrates freshwater quality and quantity, standards, rights and allocation, land use, three waters infrastructure, cost and affordability, and funding while recognising that the allocation of iwi rights and interests in freshwater is a live issue for the Crown.
Date updated: 6 November 2017