Setting and achieving freshwater objectives

To achieve the objectives, regional planning instruments must identify freshwater management units for all freshwater bodies in the region and develop freshwater objectives for all management units.

Freshwater objectives must be set in accordance with Policy CA2.  This involves:

  • Identifying the values for each freshwater management unit.  These must include the compulsory values of ecosystem health and human health for recreation, any other applicable national values such as mahinga kai, plus any other communally identified values.  Appendix 1 sets out the national values and uses for freshwater (see National Values section here
  • Identifying the attributes applicable to the selected values. Some attributes are listed in the Attribute Tables in Appendix 2 (such as dissolved oxygen and cyanobacteria); other attributes will be determined communally.
  • Assigning an attribute state at or above the minimum acceptable state for Appendix 2 attributes.  For example, phytoplankton concentrations in lakes must be set at least at the national bottom line.  If the lake is currently at attribute state A, B or C, then that attribute state will need to be at least maintained, and may be set at a higher state..
  • The freshwater objective is the specified attribute state where it is specified in Appendix 2 as a number - such as 12 mg/m3 (annual median) in the lake phytoplankton bottom line example used above.  For attributes not listed in Appendix 2, the freshwater objective is set in numeric terms where practicable but otherwise in narrative terms.
  • Policy CA2e)iia sets out further detail on what maintenance of overall water quality involves when setting freshwater objectives
  • Policy CA2f) sets out matters that must be considered at all relevant points in the process described above.

There is an exception from national bottom lines where the existing quality is caused by a naturally occurring process, or any of the existing significant infrastructure listed in Appendix 3 – except that Appendix 3 is currently unpopulated.

 Once freshwater objectives have been determined, Policy A1 requires that freshwater quality limits are set for all freshwater management units and that methods including rules are established in plans to avoid over-allocation.  A ‘limit’ is the maximum amount of resource use available, which allows a freshwater objective to be met.  In contrast to a freshwater objective, a limit relates to people’s use of freshwater resources.  For example, it could be expressed as a source load, catchment load, loading rate, loss rate, or concentration. The intention is that limits are able to be allocated to a particular user, activity or sector where practicable.

 Policy A2 requires that where freshwater managements currently do not meet the freshwater objectives (they are over-allocated already) the regional council must specify targets and implement methods to assist the improvement of water quality in the freshwater management units to meet those targets within a defined timeframe. These policies are likely to mean that rules are required to control land uses and discharges, such as riparian set backs and nitrogen discharge allowances.  Other methods may also be applied, such as incentives to plant riparian margins. 

 Similarly, for water quantity, regional plans must establish freshwater objectives and set environmental flows and/or levels for all freshwater management units in the region (Policy B1).  Regional councils must ensure that no decision will likely result in future over-allocation (Policy B5) and must set a defined timeframe and methods by which over-allocation must be phased out.

Regional councils must also change plans to provide for the efficient allocation of freshwater to activities, within the limits set. 

Regional councils are to impose conditions on discharge permits to ensure the limits and targets can be met. Provision is also made for the creation of rules requiring the adoption of the best practicable option to prevent or minimise any actual or likely adverse effect on the environment of any discharge of contaminants where it will or may enter water.

Last updated at 1:06PM on November 17, 2017