Horizons Regional Council acknowledges new freshwater management regulation

Horizons Regional Council acknowledges central government’s finalised Action for Healthy Waterways package, which includes a revised National Policy Statement (NPS) and new National Environmental Standards (NES) for freshwater management.

Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell says we all want the same thing, to improve the quality of New Zealand’s rivers, lakes, streams, estuaries, and wetlands.

“Regional Councils are a key part of the solution and government needs to recognise our sector as a crucial partner in giving effect to the national regulations,” says Cr Keedwell.

“Now that the changes have been set in law, Horizons’ focus turns to how we will implement the changes to the NPS and new NES within the Manawatū-Whanganui Region.”

Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney says the Action for Healthy Waterways package introduces new rules and regulations around fish passage, stock exclusion, limiting farm intensification, capping on-farm fertiliser use, and stopping intensive winter grazing practices.

“We are acutely aware that these new regulations are significant for some farming activities and will be working to ensure our rural communities are aware of their requirements.

“However, we encourage landowners to be proactive in understanding their obligations.

“We have noted special provisions for horticulture in Horowhenua, where maintain water quality below some national bottom lines while ensuring that improvements are made is allowed.

“Horizons will also consider implications of the package on our current One Plan changes, with a revised regional plan needing to be in place by 2024 to give effect to the NPS.

“Resourcing to deliver revised regional plans, and the demand on ratepayers to fund extensive policy, compliance and monitoring requirements will be high.

“Horizons has a strong understanding of the region’s freshwater resources due to our comprehensive monitoring, research and science programmes we already have in place. However, we will need to increase capacity and capability in these areas as well as our consent, monitoring, compliance, and environmental reporting teams.

“In addition to regulatory requirements, Horizons has been working with landowners, iwi, and community groups on fencing, riparian planting, effluent management, and biodiversity initiatives for decades.

“The Action for Healthy Waterways package supports our work and takes it further, making Farm Environment Plans and the fencing of many waterways compulsory over the next five years.

“The recent Jobs for Nature funding we received will help us to accelerate fencing and planting, and fish passage remediation programmes we already had planned. The $18.5 million of funding also includes the construction of a wetland complex near Lake Horowhenua.

“Meanwhile, our Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) includes voluntary Whole Farm Plans. A big part of the Whole Farm Plans success has been Council’s ability to subsidise landowners, enabling on-farm environmental work to be done sooner. SLUI is the main mechanism for tackling accelerated erosion in our hill country and represents a $79 million investment in the region by central government, ratepayers and landowners.”

Cr Keedwell says the Healthy Waterways package is extensive and will put in place good measures for managing New Zealand’s fresh water.

“We need to take some time to work through the implications of the new regulations, which will likely result in a phased approach to giving effect to the NES, PS and s360 Resource Management Act reset. 

“Council also needs to consider how we will fund the new resources needed to do implement this extensive package of work, which will be done through our 2021-31 Long-term Plan and discussion with our communities.”