- Sustainable water management is best achieved catchment by catchment
- An holistic Mountains to the sea (ki uta ki tai), approach is fundamental.
- Each catchment to be treated as an entity, although the development of a catchment wide management plan, could well involve a number of contributing components.
- Management plans specific to each catchment are based on the type of catchment, variety of water and land uses and the identification of issues.
- The pronmary focus is the waterway within the catchment – the main-stem and all the tributaries, lakes, wetlands, estuary and coastal area influenced by the river.
- Land and land use is an integral part of the process.
- Iwi representatives selected by the Iwi.
- ‘Community’ interests – all those who use and value the water resources within a catchment – selected by each participating interest. Local knowledge is the key to identifying a vision for the waterway, values, trends in waterway health, issues and solutions.
- ‘Agencies’ – both central and local government – with legislative responsibilities for every aspect of the catchment involved, both water and land, are represented. Agency support and advices fundamental to the approach – in particular, advice about available/best mechanisms to put the solutions in place.
- Independent facilitation/guidance through the process.
- Consultation over draft management plans with the wider community is considered, agreed and reported back by the entire representative working group.
- An over-arching mechanism is required to ensure the integrated management of the entire waterway within each catchment. This may require central government involvement.
- Providing advice/guidelines about the process to local communities.
- Providing information about initiatives being taken throughout the South Island.
- Playing a co-ordinating role between community using the approach, both within and between catchments.
- Ensuring the use of legislative mechanisms to put management plans in place, is consistent.
NZ’s water infrastructure under pressure but Cabinet yet to decide how to fix it
The Government isn’t ruling out taking over the management and operation of the country’s water infrastructure from local authorities.
The so-called ‘Three Waters’ (freshwater, wastewater and stormwater) are under “increasing pressure due to multiple issues, and many local authorities are struggling to respond,” according to a report commissioned by the Government last month.
On Wednesday, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta addressed a water summit in Wellington where she told stakeholders a Three Waters Review, led by the Department of Internal Affairs, has found that all three waters services to New Zealanders are inconsistent and patchy.
She said a new system is still in the “conceptual stage” and ministers were due to report back to Cabinet later this year with recommendations for upgrading the country’s infrastructure, while also improving water quality and drinking standards.
Cabinet will make a decision next year on what sort of reforms they’re looking at and the design options for them. New legislation may also need to be put before Parliament.
Speaking to media following her speech, Mahuta said the Government wasn’t “ruling anything in or out” when it came to what a new ‘Three Waters’ model would look like.
“There is a very strong view however that the public ownership of assets is core to that conversation.”
Currently thereare about 68 territorial authorities supplying their own water. If the Government moved to an aggregated service, like Wellington Water, “that would require a big conversation of councils”.
Asked whether one option was to take the management and delivery away from local authorities and have it run by central government, Mahuta said “it’s an open conversation and live”.
The Government will also look to international examples, including Scotland which has just one water delivery service, although Mahuta said she’s not sure that would suit the New Zealand context.
Two proposals put to the summit by Mahuta on Wednesday were to move towards regional, publicly-owned water providers, or alternatively a small number of cross-regional, publicly-owned water providers.
One result of a more aggregated model is that urban ratepayers would be subsidising regional ratepayers.
Mahuta said that’s a “very real prospect and in some places could be an advantage”.
“Obviously rural water suppliers, rural communities, struggle with keeping up in investment in infrastructure,” she said.
As part of the summit, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has released a new discussion paper looking at a review of water quality.
The key finding was that the regulatory framework for freshwater and drinking water “doesn’t take into account adequately the costs for communities to meet these standards”.
“If new standards for water quality are set we need to understand the costs, how we fund these and whether communities can afford them on their own.”
LGNZ president Dave Cull said the Havelock North drinking water contamination “highlighted issues including funding, ageing infrastructure and the pressures of climate change and population movements, and reiterated that we need to change how we’re doing things”.
The Havelock North Inquiry came after a deadly campylobacter contamination in the Hawke’s Bay community’s drinking-water supply.
“The inquiry into Havelock North has made significant recommendations – both to overhaul drinking water regulation and also how to think differently about delivering water services. What is clear that we need a step change to reduce the risk of another Havelock North tragedy,” Mahuta said.