Land, water forum report

Appropriate national direction should mean the extra layer of governance proposed by the Land and Water Forum yesterday will not be needed, Otago Regional Council chief executive Graeme Martin says.

The forum, set up last year by Environment Minister Nick Smith to look at New Zealand's freshwater system, released a report with about 53 recommendations yesterday.

Included were the creation of a non-statutory "land and water commission" to advise ministers and oversee the development of a land and water strategy and government appointees to regional councils.

Mr Martin said the extra layer of governance proposed by the forum, if adopted by the Government, would "clearly increase governance costs significantly".

"If there is appropriate national direction these other things will have no purpose."Forum chairman Alastair Bisley said it was agreed the way water was managed needed to be changed as while the country's freshwater was good overall, its quality and availability had been deteriorating.

Among the forum's recommendations in the report was the need for standards to be set for water quality and quantity.

An overall water strategy was needed, as was a national policy statement to give improved direction to regional councils, which needed to work in a collaborative way with their communities, including iwi, the report said.

"The approach of first-in, first-served does not work in an increasing number of catchments where water is fully allocated or approaching full allocation."Regional governance needed to be improved if the present model, including the forum, was to be retained.

It was also recommended regional councils ensure regulatory approaches were consistent across catchments and between councils.

Mr Martin said while the regional council supported the development of a more coherent approach across government agencies, it would be concerned if a one-size-fits-all approach was taken, especially in any modification of the draft national policy statement.

"A centralised standard would not fit everywhere.

Hopefully, by the time it's done, Otago will be far enough down a better line it will not cause concern for us."However, if the Government decided on a general approach with set targets, the council would be comfortable.

"I don't thing there is anything in there that is at all discordant as to where the regional council is trying to go with water."Environment Minister Nick Smith said the Land and Water Forum would soon hold a series of public workshops throughout the country.

The Government will then consider the forum report and feedback from the engagement process, along with advice from iwi leaders and officials, before making long-term policy decisions about fresh water management.

Land and water forum

Proposals include:
- Adoption of standards framework to address urban and rural discharges and flows.
- Collaborative approaches should be mandated for development of any land and water strategy.
- More flexible system for transferring water permits.
- Approach of first-in first-served does not work where water nearly fully allocated.
- Improved direction to regional councils from central government.
- Land and Water commission should be established to oversee a national land and water strategy and oversee fund set up to enable clean-up of contaminated water bodies.
- Improved regional council performance in water and land use management.
- Government appointments to regional councils.
- Parliamentary Commissioner for Environment to review effectiveness of regional councils.


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