Green involvement in water quality, rangatira and kaitiaki rights

Although Labour’s Environment Minister David Parker introduced Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality” this is a big deal for the Green Party, who ensured water quality would be addressed in their Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour.

Under ‘Sustainable Economy’:

5. Provide assistance to the agricultural sector to reduce biological emissions, improve water quality, and shift to more diverse and sustainable land use including more forestry

Under ‘Healthy Environment’:

7. Improve water quality and prioritise achieving healthy rivers, lakes and aquifers with stronger regulatory instruments, funding for freshwater enhancement and winding down Government support for irrigation.

a. The Resource Management Act will be better enforced.

I can’t find much on this in the media, but Green co-leader Marama Davidson said this via email – not surprisingly and justifiably Greens see this as a win for them:


Our streams, rivers, and lakes are precious to all of us. Freshwater is the lifeblood of our communities. That’s why we’re pleased that today the Government is continuing work to deliver on the Green Party’s commitment to clean up our rivers so they’re clean and healthy for our kids and grandkids.

The Green Party have long championed cleaning up our waterways and protecting them from pollution.

Russel Norman spent a summer kayaking several awa highlighting the growing pollution. When National slashed the freshwater standards Catherine Delahunty toured the country to restore them, and last year we made rivers a priority in the 2017 election campaign.

Together, we’ve put cleaning up our rivers on the political agenda. And today, with the Greens at the heart of Government, we’re making tangible progress.

As part of our agreement with Labour, we’ve secured prioritising healthy rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

Because of that, today the Government is announcing:

  • A comprehensive work programme to clean up our most at-risk catchments
  • Strengthening the National Policy Statement on freshwater
  • A new environmental standard to protect water
  • Improvements to the RMA
  • Beginning work on catchment-by-catchment allocations

We’ve still got a long journey ahead to make our rivers healthy and safe to swim in. But, today’s announcement shows this government is flowing in the right direction.

However, a key area that we think needs strengthening is to properly recognise that Māori have rangatira and kaitiaki rights over water, as guaranteed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We’ll continue to push for this to be honoured.

Protecting the environment and recognising Māori rights go hand-in-hand.

Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality”

The quality of rain water in New Zealand is pretty much pristine, but after it falls and flows past our towns and through our farms and industries it deteriorates, sometimes to an alarming degree.

The is probably near universal support for improving the quality of water in our creeks and rivers, lakes, inlets and lagoons, and on our beaches.

Actually water quality does not need to be improved so much as degradation needs to be drastically reduced.

Aims are a bit vague – “promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years” – but should be widely supported.

Minister of the Environment David Parker:


Taking action to improve water quality

The Government today is announcing its next steps to improve the state of our waterways, promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years.

“Clean water is our birthright. Local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline. We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”

David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality. It also sets out a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.

“New Zealanders value our rivers and lakes. More than 80 per cent are committed to improving water quality for the benefit of future generations and they want central and local government, farmers and businesses to do more,” David Parker said at a function in Parliament to launch the new work programme.

“New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality – a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard.

“The rules will include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices. Our remaining wetlands and estuaries will be better protected.

“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas.”

“We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits,” David Parker said.

“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”

Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, said both Māori and the Crown are committed to Te Mana o te Wai.

“We are committed to a substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Māori land development.”

David Parker said the Government’s approach to solving these issues is engaging leading New Zealanders who care about our freshwater – environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, Regional Council experts and others.

“Already, we are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”

Alongside work to tackle climate change, reduce waste, and protect our natural biodiversity, today’s release of the freshwater work programme shows this Government is determined to protect our environment for future New Zealanders.

Damien O’Connor said New Zealanders all agree our natural resources must be used wisely.

“Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally-sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.

“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products. The workstreams set out today recognise the importance of accelerating this good work.”

The documents Essential Freshwater Agenda and Shared interests in Freshwater can be read on the Ministry for the Environment website at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/essential-freshwater-agenda

Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying options for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.

Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits; and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.

Decisions on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.

Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups; Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.


See also: Freshwater plan to explore Māori and Crown shared interests

The Government plan announced today to improve freshwater quality acknowledges that water quality cannot be addressed without a concurrent and substantive discussion with Māori, Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis said