A new approach to water policy is needed to ensure community expectations and government standards can be better met, Local Government New Zealand says.
The Government today announced a new package of clean water measures, including amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, a series of regional “swimmability” maps, criteria for the $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund and national regulations to exclude stock from waterways.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the greater focus on water quality is welcomed. While there are concerns around the methods and data used in the maps showing water quality in lakes and rivers, nonetheless LGNZ supports informing the public about progress. The most up-to-date information is available through local government’s Land Air Water Aotearoa’s Can I Swim Here feature at lawa.org.nz.
“Water is core business for local government and regional and territorial councils work every day to deliver better water outcomes. This work is ongoing and there is more to do, but there have been some good successes in recent decades, for example in the reduction of point source discharges,” Mr Yule says.
“But it is worth noting that with steadily increasing demand for water from industry, agriculture and growing urban communities a new, holistic approach to water policy is now necessary.”
Health and environmental quality standards, rights to access and use water, and the cost, affordability and provision of infrastructure that delivers water to users and treats wastewater and storm water are not always considered together.
“Water quality and quantity is a major issue for New Zealand and one that we think needs a more coherent, integrated policy approach,” Mr Yule says.
“We have seen the pressure that land intensification can have on the quality of our waterways and increasingly we are aware that urban water infrastructure, like ageing wastewater systems and a deficit of stormwater infrastructure, is having an adverse impact on our freshwater quality in the future.
“Decisions made in one area fundamentally impact on whether outcomes can be achieved in the others, so water policy needs to be considered in a connected way. Developing a way forward is now becoming an urgent matter for the Government, local government and its communities, and Iwi and we look forward to collaborating on a future-focused approach.”
Mr Yule says policies also need to clearly address how communities can expect to have quality and infrastructure improvements funded.
LGNZ’s National Council has made addressing water policy a priority for the next triennium. To achieve this LGNZ will commence a major piece of policy work, Water 2050, to develop a framework for water that coherently integrates policy relating to freshwater quality and quantity, standards, rights and allocation, land use, three waters infrastructure, cost and affordability, and funding.
“Work of this nature requires close collaboration between central and local government and LGNZ is committed to ensuring close liaison with central government as we progress our work.”