Freshwater and Planning: An Analysis of the NPSFM
Within New Zealand, water is utilized and valued for a diverse range of reasons. Values differ according to region, whether the prominent uses are urban drinking water, hydroelectricity, irrigation, or cultural values, each has a different and sometimes contrasting understanding of water and how it should be used. Contestation and conflict arise over freshwater as quality declines and waterways become over-allocated, causing these viewpoints to compete. The management framework for freshwater is created under the Resource Management Act. Since its passing, and despite its core principle of sustainability, freshwater bodies have ironically deteriorated. Inadequate management of human use occurring within catchments and disregard for future uses in terms of water allocation have impacted our waterways. In response, the Central Government created the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPSFM), which is the primary focus for this research. The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management informs lower order policy and planning documents to create national direction for an issue of national significance. The aim of this research is to assess how effective a National Policy Statement is in improving water quality and management at a regional level for freshwater bodies in New Zealand. To assist the analysis, a comparison between the Southland and Auckland freshwater management contexts was done. The methods used to obtain data for this research include a literature review and semi-structured interviews. Interviews were conducted with relevant stakeholders, including representatives of catchment groups, public and private planners, water strategy managers, mana whenua and other key stakeholders. The findings show the NPSFM sits at an institutionally high level and affects freshwater management slowly through the planning framework. Two of the most influential policy directions are the introduction of environmental limits and Te Mana o te Wai, which induce catchment wide planning, consideration of the environment as a user of water, and draw decisions makers attention to the effect activities have outside of the water management framework. Efficacy and capacity of Regional Councils is critical in implementing the NPSFM which is further determined by the social, economic and geographical settings of regions. Implications are felt more strongly in regions with less proactive freshwater planning, higher amounts of agricultural activities and less institutional capability. There are no obvious direct benefits to certain stakeholders; however, there are indirect benefits for iwi participation in decision making and the incorporation of Māori values into regulatory frameworks. Southland is heavily reliant on agricultural practices and the impacts for farmers are clear, while Auckland is now required to meet national bottom lines irrelevant to urban catchments. This has increased with the introduction of a National Environmental Standards for Freshwater in 2020 which have further targeted policy at agricultural activities, prompting impacts for livelihoods and land values. Overall, the NPSFM has enacted a change at a fundamental level, through the use of planning processes critical adjustments are applied to the water management framework, effectively changes in water quality occur over a generational time period.
Advisor: Hill, Doug
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Freshwater Management; RMA; National Policy
Research Type: Thesis