Environment Southland’s submission to the Essential Freshwater package
Environment Southland’s submission to the Government’s Essential Freshwater Package focuses on matters of interest to the Southland community; its aspirations for improving water quality and the work already underway to achieve it.
Our submission also supports the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) submission, which was led by the regional sector (comprising New Zealand’s 16 regional councils). The LGNZ submission strongly supports what the Government is looking to achieve, the focus on freshwater ecosystem health, and regulation to manage contaminants. It does not agree with the national ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and asks the Government to partner with local government to ‘right-size’ the freshwater reforms to the variable nature of the issues across the country.
Environment Southland’s submission advocates strongly for solutions that fit our region.
We know some of Southland’s waterways are degraded and that improving them will be a real challenge. However, the Government’s package doesn’t change the intent of the current National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), therefore the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan remains relevant.
Our plan seeks to halt any further degradation. Importantly, it was shaped through Southlanders’ involvement, and now it is in the final appeals process. As well, we are part way through a process to set limits (for discharges to and abstractions from waterways), as required by the NPS-FM.
More needs to be done to improve water quality in Southland, but the Government’s package risks diverting us and slowing down improvements to water quality.
We agree with the Government that Te Mana o Te Wai is the best way of managing fresh water strategically and this already forms the basis of the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan, initiated in partnership with mana whenua.
Our submission supports the community view that the Manapouri Power Scheme should not have an exception from meeting water quality guidelines as this appears to put national interests in front of the interests of the environment and local communities.
The economic impacts of the Government's Essential Freshwater Package are unclear, however, for Southland, the existing requirements relating to nitrogen and phosphorus were always going to be challenging. The Government’s package builds on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which first came into being in 2011, and has been updated twice since.
A great deal of work has been done and is underway in Southland to meet the requirements of the NPS-FM. This is being progressed through Environment Southland’s People, Water and Land programme, which has three major work streams: on the ground action to provide practical steps to improve land practices and water quality; values and objectives engagement to understand our communities’ aspirations for freshwater; regional forum to advise the council on regulatory and non-regulatory ways of achieving those aspirations and NPS requirements.