Latest Government Freshwater Report Shows The Need For Continued Regional Efforts To Improve Freshwater Health

Latest Government Freshwater Report Shows The Need For Continued Regional Efforts To Improve Freshwater Health


Te Uru Kahika, the collective of New Zealand’s
16 regional and unitary councils, say the recently released
‘Our freshwater 2023’ report from Ministry for the
Environment and Stats NZ demonstrates the value of
continuing their work to improve, protect, and enhance
freshwater.

“Collectively, regional
and unitary councils have been investing significantly in
scaling up our efforts to better understand freshwater
health through research and monitoring, to better protect
freshwater resources through policy changes and compliance
activities, and to work with others through engaging with
our communities, iwi and hapū, businesses, government
departments, and food producers on
solutions.

“Across Aotearoa, regional councils
continue to expand catchment restoration and land management
programmes, and significant change is underway through plan
changes and the implementation of freshwater reforms,”
says Te Uru Kahika Regional Councils Chief Executive
Officers Group representative Dr Stefanie
Rixecker.

Our freshwater 2023 outlines how
increasing pressures on freshwater are affecting water
quality, ecosystems, and people throughout New Zealand. It
draws on data from regional and unitary council monitoring
programmes, as well as data from other science
organisations. The report is stark in its findings and by
design does not comment on solutions.

Since 2011,
central governments have provided direction for freshwater
management through the National Policy Statement on
Freshwater Management (NPS-FM). The most recent NPS-FM
issued in 2020 increased emphasis on ecosystem health and
Māori freshwater values, seeking improvements in freshwater
quality within a generation.

Our freshwater
2023
provides a national level overview of challenges
facing rivers, lakes, and groundwater using data up to 2020.
Regional and unitary councils are already working at a pace
not seen in recent history to implement positive change in
freshwater management.

“Since 2020, all regional and
unitary councils have increased resourcing for freshwater
and are working alongside tangata whenua and their
communities to improve freshwater
ecosystems.

“Councils are also working to implement
new national regulations regarding wetlands, fish passage,
intensive winter grazing, and caps on synthetic nitrogen
use. Within the next two years, regional and unitary
councils will release revised freshwater plans which must
clearly state how freshwater management in the region will
reflect Te Mana o te Wai and will use a set of at least 22
scientific attributes that will establish local baseline and
target states.

“Regional and unitary councils will
be talking to communities about the revised plans over the
next year and it’s a significant opportunity for New
Zealanders to get involved in the future of our freshwater.
We urge people to have their say in their local policy
development and regional council websites have more detail
on how,” says Dr Rixecker.

Our freshwater 2023
notes that data and research gaps hinder the quality of
state of the environment reporting. Regional and unitary
councils have been proactively working to address identified
data gaps through initiatives such as the Environmental
Monitoring and Reporting (EMaR) Programme, a partnership
between Te Uru Kahika, Ministry for the Environment, Stats
NZ, Department of Conversation, and Cawthron
Institute.

EMaR Chair Dr Tim Davie says the programme
is behind a number of projects, including the Land, Air,
Water Aotearoa project that makes the most up-to-date
freshwater information for regions, catchments, and
individual sites freely accessible on the LAKE websitehelping to
inform local communities and national reporting.

“We
look forward to continuing to be part of work to further
improve the quality, consistency, and availability of data
and information for core environmental indicators.
Ultimately helping to better direct efforts for the
management of freshwater and giving effect to Te Mana o te
Wai.

“Freshwater systems and pressures are
interconnected. It will take time, in some cases decades, to
see significant improvements in environmental outcomes as a
result of the work happening now.

“Reports such as
Our freshwater 2023 are timely reminders of the
importance of sustained efforts to care for our most
precious resource – freshwater,” says Dr
Davie.

© Scoop Media




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