This update covers recent major events in the review of the Council's freshwater, land and air quality plans and outline steps ahead leading up to a proposed natural resources plan that integrate freshwater, land and air provisions into a single plan.
Development of proposed Natural Resources Plan
The Council has decided to combine its freshwater, soil and air quality plans into one Natural Resources Plan (please note that this is a draft title). While combining the plans means bringing the review of the Air Plan forward a year, the Council sees the benefits in doing so as:
- Reducing costs to all parties, avoids duplication in resources and ensures greater consistency in plan frameworks/wording.
- Being timely, as if the Air Quality Plan review is kept separate to the Freshwater and Land Management Plan review process then we may have to wait another ten years to combine them into one plan.
- Simplification, especially as the National Planning Standards recently published by the Ministry for the Environment endorse and enable the development of ‘combined plans’.
Council officers are continuing to draft provisions to establish how they can best fit within the framework of a combined plan and the Government’s proposed Action for Healthy Waterways package.
Action for Healthy Waterways Package
On 5 September 2019, the Government released its draft National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management, the draft amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the draft Stock Exclusion Section 360 Regulations.
The Council submitted on the package noting its support for the intent of the package to improve water quality throughout New Zealand. However, Council’s submission highlighted significant concerns around specific aspects of the policies and regulations proposed. The Council’s submission is summarised here and the full submission can be downloaded using the link:
- One size does not fit all. Taranaki is unique in its geography and in the progress it’s made in maintaining and improving freshwater quality. Much of the new package would have unpredictable and likely only marginal environmental benefits, but would bring substantial adverse outcomes for community wellbeing.
- The focus should be on improving trends rather than setting limits. This would allow for natural differences regionally and nationally while halting the decline of water degradation. Regulation should only be used where there is a proven cause and effect and demonstrable benefit where it is applied.
- For Taranaki, there is no cost-benefit justification for the policy and regulation changes proposed by the Government.
- The Taranaki community has collectively demonstrated strong commitment to improving freshwater health, taking carefully considered long-term action and spending millions of dollars on measures that have proven to be effective.
- Good environmental results are increasingly evident, and have been confirmed in independent assessments. These efforts and good waterway health trends will be continued through measures already signalled to and agreed by regional stakeholders in preparations for the Natural Resources Plan.
Devil in the detail
The Government’s package includes comprehensive and complex proposals that raise many issues, notably:
- Proposed nutrient limits are underpinned by questionable science. The scientific evidence suggests the ecological health of waterways is driven by a range of factors including nutrient levels, flow characteristics and physical habitat. These factors interact differently catchment by catchment, so national limits make little sense. The Government’s proposed limits would substantially restrict farm output for no clear benefit. This would threaten community wellbeing for uncertain and at best marginal environmental gains.
- The OVERSEER farm-management tool would be given a role it’s not suitable for. The Council shares the view of many experts and authorities, including the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, that it is unfit for use as a regulatory tool, is highly inaccurate, remains unproven in many landscapes, and cannot reflect actual environmental impacts. An upgraded tool would still have accuracy issues given the complex science involved.
- National ‘one size fits all’ stock-exclusion rules would override Taranaki’s proven, successful, and much more comprehensive Riparian Management Programme, adding substantial cost for no obvious benefits.
- Farm and community viability and wellbeing would be at risk. The Government has not provided appropriate cost-benefit analyses. But the Council has found a very adverse impact on the viability of many farms is likely because of imposed reductions in fertiliser use and soil fertility, and thus stock numbers, even with a compliance timeframe of ‘a generation’ and social well-being of the wider community, urban as well as rural.
- The package as it stands would impose major costs for questionable gain. A Council-commissioned study indicates achieving the proposed Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen limits alone would cost $100,000 a year for 33% of farms and $50,000 a year for 70% of farms. But Taranaki’s mountain-fed rivers are in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ bands for ecological health according to the Government’s established own measures. Their ecological health has, with only rare exception, been stable or improving over the past decade or more. In terms of swimmability, our rivers are mostly in good or excellent health at the places and times most people swim. The evidence is clear to the Council: the proposed national interventions are neither credible nor necessary for this region.
Resource Management Act amendment
On 23 September 2019, the Government introduced the Resource Management Bill 2019 (the Bill). The Bill principally amends the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (RLAA). The overarching objective of the Bill is to reduce complexity, increase certainty and restore public participation opportunities in the RMA.
The Bill repeals a number of changes made by the RLAA, and provides a number of improvements and clarifications to existing RMA processes in relation to resource consents, compliance and enforcement, and Environment Court matters. Of particular interest are proposals to establish a new freshwater planning process, to reinstate financial contributions, to enable the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to take enforcement action under the RMA, to increase maximum infringement fees under the RMA, plus other changes to improve RMA consenting and enforcement processes.
The proposal to establish a new freshwater planning process will affect the Natural Resources Plan development. This process is proposed to be mandatory for all regional councils in developing their proposed regional policy statements or plans (and plan changes) relating to freshwater.
A Chief Freshwater Commissioner is to be appointed, who will be responsible for convening freshwater hearings panels to hear public submissions on freshwater planning instruments. These panels will have enhanced hearing powers.
The new freshwater planning process is intended to provide the framework through which the Council will be required to implement the Action for Healthy Waterways package. The Council will also be required to receive and consider recommendations on freshwater planning instruments from the hearings panels. In contrast to other planning processes, regional councils may accept recommendations from a freshwater hearings panel that are beyond the scope of submissions. Where a recommendation is rejected, the council must decide an alternative solution. The Bill provides for limited rights of appeal from council decisions.
The Council submitted on the Bill and the submission is available in the November Policy and Planning Agenda (see link).
Key messages and points made in the submission are:
- Plan agility: The submission strongly supports the Government’s intent to streamline freshwater planning processes under the RMA, particularly through the use of alternative disputes resolution and narrowed scope of appeals. However, it believes the concept could and should be applied much further. The submission seeks that the RMA be amended to streamline Schedule 1 planning processes and that they apply across all regional and district plans.
- Limitations to the freshwater planning process: In relation to the freshwater planning proposals in Section 80A of the Bill, the submission supports the concept but highlights a number of specific concerns, including the potential for specialised freshwater hearing panels to derogate from local decision making, natural justice (in terms of considering matters out of scope of submissions), and integrated management (in that the process only focuses on freshwater, and not the other environmental domains).
- Financial contributions: The submission supports reinstating the use of financial contributions provisions of section 128 of the RMA (which were repealed by the RLAA).
- EPA enforcement: The submission supports, in part, the introduction of new powers in the Bill for the EPA to undertake enforcement action under the RMA with the caveat that EPA action should only be available in circumstances where a particular council specifically requests, or agrees to, EPA assistance on an enforcement matter.
- Other consenting and compliance matters: The submission is broadly supportive of the amendments to the consenting and compliance processes – particularly extending the time period to lodge retrospective resource consent applications for emergency works, enabling review of conditions of multiple consents concurrently, increasing maximum infringement fees under the RMA, and extending the statutory limitation period to file charges for prosecutions under the RMA.
Progressive Implementation Plan
The Progressive Implementation Programme is a requirement under the NPS-FM. As it was impracticable for the Council to fully implement the NPS-FM by 31 December 2015 it was required to adopt a programme of time-limited stages which would see the NPS fully implemented by 2025 (or 2030 in certain circumstances). This Plan is available on the Taranaki Regional Council website.
The 2019 annual report on the Progressive Implementation Plan went to the Council’s Policy and Planning Committee on 19 November 2019. The annual report noted progress on the development of the proposed Natural Resources Plan (plus other actions). It also noted the Council’s original intention to notify its proposed Natural Resources Plan in 2020. However, the report noted that with the magnitude of work and new requirements proposed in the Action for Healthy Waterways package, this is now likely to occur later.
TRC Progressive Implementation Plan [PDF, 1.8 MB]
The Council has contracted ISOVIST to develop the eplanning platform for all the Council’s RMA plans. This is the same company which successfully developed the platform for the NPDC District Plan and therefore it is hoped that the eplans will have a similar feel and functionality.
The Natural Resources Plan is being developed within the eplan format including interactive, online planning documents and maps. It is hoped that the eplan will make navigating and understanding the proposed Natural Resources Plan, once it is publicly notified, much simpler with the ability to search and filter Plan provisions according to location or activity.
Wai Māori Working Group
The Council is continuing to meet regularly with iwi and hapū representatives as part of the Wai Māori Working Group. The Wai Māori Working Group, which is facilitated by Sean Zieltjes, meets approximately every six weeks and has met eight times to date. Its aim is to ensure tangata whenua values and interests are properly incorporated into the new Plan.
Sites of significance to Māori
The Wai Māori Working Group and the Council have been discussing the inclusion of ‘sites of significance to Māori’ in its Natural Resources Plan. Stratford District Council and South Taranaki District Council have also indicated that they wish to work with the Regional Council and tangata whenua to identify sites within their districts and support their planning processes.
The New Plymouth District Council have already undertaken an extensive ‘sites of significance’ identification project for its proposed District Plan and, with the permission of the relevant Iwi and hapū, the Council hopes to incorporate this information in its Natural Resources Plan to avoid duplicating the work already undertaken.
To commence the identification process, Adelaide Campbell, a university student, is undertaking a stocktake of publicly noted sites and noting their location, features and extent where known. This includes researching Tiriti o Waitangi settlements, council files, Puke Ariki databases and archives and other online and historic sources. This information will then be shared with Iwi and hapū o Taranaki for verification of its accuracy and appropriateness for inclusion in the Plan. The Wai Māori Working Group is still discussing the process for identification of further sites and it is likely that these discussions will continue on an individual iwi and/or hapū basis.
Wetland identification survey
The Government’s proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (if promulgated in its current form) will require regional councils to identify and map all wetlands in their region that are:
- 0.05 hectares greater in size; or
- Known to contain threatened species; or
- Of a type that is naturally less than 0.05 ha in size (such as ephemeral wetlands or springs).
The Council already has extensive knowledge on many of our wetlands, particularly in rural areas. However, this summer, we are mainly focussing on wetlands in urban, industrial and lifestyle areas. Using information obtained from previous analysis of aerial photography, university students Allie Mulholland and Grace Mackenzie are currently visiting these wetlands, mapping their extent and noting some features such as wetland type and whether it is fenced or excludes stock by other means.
Cultural framework for Natural Resources Plan
The Council commissioned Rawiri Faulkner to develop the cultural framework of the Freshwater and Land Plan. The purpose of this is to better recognise and provide for cultural beliefs and practices within the legislative framework in which the Council operates for its resource management plans. Rawiri has completed his draft report (see link). This report focused on compiling information regarding what was legislatively required of Council, what is good practice, what other councils had done and what Taranaki Regional Council had previously done.
The next stage is to work with Iwi and hapū o Taranaki to establish how they see their values and principles fitting into the cultural framework of the region’s Natural Resources Plan.
The Council undertakes monitoring of the region’s land, air, freshwater and marine water quality as part of routine State of the Environment monitoring programmes that help answer important questions about the quality of environment and inform the development of Plan draft provisions. See TRC environmental monitoring reports here
In the past six months, the results of the 2018/2019 marine and freshwater recreational bathing, 2017/2018 physico-chemical and 2017/2018 macroinvertebrate state of the environment monitoring programmes have been reported. Overall, there was no discernible change in microbiological and physico-chemical water quality, and the biological monitoring showed continuing improvement on relatively good quality.
The recreational bathing monitoring programme is underway for the 2019/2020 summer period, with the Council assisting the Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) with taking the TDHB water quality roadshow to local Iwi. The roadshow aims to raise understanding of bacteriological risk associated with swimming in local waterbodies, provide tips on avoiding the chance of infection and provide training on how to interpret results displayed on national, regional and district websites.
A new continuous monitoring site has been installed in the Waingongoro River at SH45. Up to six hydrochemical parameters can be monitored simultaneously at this site and complements three other continuous dissolved oxygen monitoring sites in other regional rivers designed help address new requirements of NPS for Freshwater.
2019 survey of recreational use of coast, rivers and lakes
Since the early 1980s, the Council has surveyed the public’s perception of recreational use and access of the region’s coast, rivers and lakes. These surveys provide important information inform Council’s policy development in relation to public access to and along rivers, lakes and the coastal environment.
The first survey was conducted in 1980-82 (by the Council’s predecessor, the Taranaki Catchment Commission), later in 2007, and now in 2019 (still under way).
The first part of the 2019 survey, in the form of online questionnaire, was completed over the 2018/19 summer. The second part is due to be completed this coming summer and involves conducting observational surveys of recreational areas. A report presenting the current state and access of recreational waterbodies (i.e. beaches, lakes and rivers) and the pressures facing these waterbodies will be provided in mid-2020. Output from this report will also help inform the draft Natural Resources Plan, as well as the upcoming review of the Taranaki Regional Policy Statement.
National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity
On 25 November 2019, the Government released its draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity. Feedback is being received until 14 March 2020.
While the Council is still considering how the draft provisions will potentially affect the Natural Resources Plan, initial review indicated that there will be significant requirements for the identification, mapping and monitoring of indigenous vegetation in the Region. Of particular interest to this Council are requirements around the identification and mapping of taonga species and habitats and highly mobile fauna areas.
The Council is currently preparing its submission, which will be made publicly available in due course.
Further river and streams surveys
The Council has commissioned Dr Ian Jowett to expand upon his June 2018 report Review of Minimum Flows and Water Allocation in Taranaki and to undertake some additional work on the effects of various environmental flows on Taranaki’s largest rivers and small streams.
Ian’s earlier work had focussed on using data from mid-sized rivers and modelling what the effects are likely to be on larger and smaller streams. However, after hearing concerns from the Wai Māori Working Party, the Council has decided that it would like more certainty around these effects and has therefore commissioned river surveys to be undertaken commencing in the 2020 summer.
Surveys will be undertaken in the Waitara and Whenuakura rivers as representative of large rivers in the Region. The locations of these surveys are still being finalised. The Council is also working through some site options, for smaller streams. To be considered as a potential site for any sized stream the Council must have long-term flow records, which is a limiting factor for selecting some waterbodies.
As you may be aware, in 2015 the Taranaki Regional Council provided a Draft Freshwater and Land Management Plan for targeted informal consultation. Forty-two written submissions were subsequently received, which covered a range of matters and concerns, including the need for further work to incorporate new and emerging national policy directions such as the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM), the revised 2017 version, and the associated National Objectives Framework. Subsequently the Council decided to undertake further work and investigations to potentially resolve the issues raised and ensure Taranaki has the most robust plan possible while also meeting all requirements of the NPS-FM.
In September 2018 the Council published an update on the Freshwater and Land Plan progress, which is available on this web page. Since then, there have been the following developments:
Progressive Implementation Plan
The Progressive Implementation Programme report is a requirement under the NPS-FM. As it was impracticable for the Council to fully implement the NPS-FM by 31 December 2015 it was required to adopt a programme of time-limited stages which would see the NPS fully implemented by 2025 (or 2030 in certain circumstances). The first Progressive Implementation Programme was adopted by Council in December 2016. The 2017 amendments to the NPS-FM subsequently required the Progressive Implementation Programme to be reviewed and the adoption of a revised Programme by 31 December 2018. Accordingly, Council has reviewed and revised its Progressive Implementation Programme, which was completed in November 2018 and is available on our website. It sets out Council’s staged implementation plan for key projects in implementing the NPS-FM.
In November 2018 the Council set its river and lake ‘swimmability targets’ as required under the NPS-FM. This report is available on our website. The Government, using its own modelling, estimates that currently 39% of Taranaki’s rivers and 97% of lakes (with a perimeter of greater than 1.5 kilometres) are swimmable 365 days of the year. Taranaki’s river ‘swimmability’ concerns (and those of other regions on the western side of New Zealand) are attributable to higher rainfall levels experienced during winter, which in turn increases run-off from paddocks resulting in E. coli entering waterways. Generally there are no ‘swimmability’ concerns in Taranaki during the summer months. Using the Government’s suggested methods for improving ‘swimmability’, a national taskforce estimates that Taranaki’s ‘swimmability’ will be improved to 67.4% of rivers and 97% of lakes by 2030. The Council’s own modelling suggests that is unlikely and that these methods would only improve ‘swimmability’ in all rivers in Taranaki to 50-55% year-round. This is because Taranaki is already undertaking many of the suggested methods and also that the methods are unlikely to have the scale of impact that the Government is suggesting. The Government hopes to improve ‘swimmability’ to an average of 80% of rivers and lakes nation-wide by 2030.
Good management practice / farm environment plans
The Council has updated its website to include a new land and farm hub. This is a go-to place for farmers on information for improving environmental practices pertaining to Council’s regulatory requirements for farming. In addition there is information about farm plans, biosecurity, biodiversity, forestry and soil health. A new addition to the website is the Good Farming Practice section which provides industry advice on practices to improve production, performance and sustainable land use.
National planning standards and ePlanning
The Government has introduced new national planning standards which aim to create consistency in plans across the country and to make the plans easier to compare, understand and comply with. Compliance with the planning standards will be a complex and costly exercise and will involve significant time and resources from the Council. Council officers are currently working on draft Plan provisions to ensure that when it is proposed, the Land and Freshwater Plan will comply with the new planning standards. This will include the use of ePlanning (interactive, online planning documents and maps). Council will shortly be investing in the development of an appropriate e-Planning and GIS platform for its RMA plans. ePlanning is web based and will make navigating and understanding Council’s RMA plans much simpler and interactive and will include the ability to search and filter Plan provisions according to location or activity.
Kaupapa Māori Freshwater Assessments
An information report on the Kaupapa Māori Freshwater Assessments report went to Council’s Policy and Planning Committee on 19 March 2019. The Council report can be found in the meeting agenda. The report is a summary of iwi and hapū-based tools, frameworks and methods for assessing freshwater environments around New Zealand. The report was informed by and largely reflects the findings of an earlier internal report prepared by the Council Incorporating Mātauranga Māori into the Monitoring of Freshwater in Taranaki which can be found in the Policy and Planning meeting agenda for 13 March 2018. Council is also planning to work with iwi and hapū o Taranaki to develop mātauranga Māori monitoring methods.
Policy & Planning agenda March 2019 [PDF, 3 MB] (see item 4)
Policy & Planning agenda March 2018 [PDF, 7.6 MB] (see item 6)
Wai Māori working party
The Council is committed to working with Iwi and hapū o Taranaki to ensure their values and interests are incorporated into a new Plan and have formed the Wai Māori Working Group. The group of iwi and hapū o Taranaki representatives has so far met three times and is in the process of finalising the terms of reference. The Council has appointed Sean Zieltjes to facilitate the group and help guide discussions. The Wai Māori Working Group and Council intend to work collaboratively to ensure that the interests, values and principles of Taranaki’s tangata whenua are appropriately expressed in the Plan provisions.
Cultural framework for Freshwater and Land Plan
The Council has commissioned Rawiri Faulkner to work with Council and Iwi o Taranaki to develop the cultural framework of the Freshwater and Land Plan. The purpose of this is to better recognise and provide for cultural beliefs and practices within the legislative framework in which the Council operates for its resource management plans. We want to know how we can ensure tangata whenua see their values and principles reflected in the Plan (particularly with the new National Planning Standards) while we balance statutory requirements, use and development and environmental management for all of Taranaki.
Setting of environmental flow limits
As noted in the September 2018 update, the Council commissioned a report from Dr Ian Jowett who conducted a Review of Minimum Flows and Water Allocation in Taranaki. The Council is looking to establish environmental flow limits (both allocable volume and minimum flow) for Taranaki rivers to be included in the new Plan. Accordingly, this report analysis the environmental impacts of different limits on freshwater flows and allowable water takes. It draws on long-term monitoring data to model the impacts of various flow and allocation limits on fish and invertebrate populations, and on the reliability of supply for water users. A factsheet summarising the report was also prepared. Since releasing the report, two workshops on the Jowett Report have been held on 10 December 2018 with Iwi representatives and on 11 December 2018 with other interested stakeholders. At the workshops, Dr Ian Jowett presented his finding in relation to his review and since this time the Council has received written comments from some stakeholders, particularly Iwi representatives. Officers are further analysing and modelling different scenarios for setting environmental flow limits and developing draft Plans provisions that will be tested with stakeholders in due course.
Upcoming activities and investigations
Limit setting remains the area involving the most significant amount of work in terms of undertaking research and investigations so that the Council can give effect to National Objectives Framework provisions of the NPS-FM. There are three main work streams:
- Review of riparian line/freshwater management units: This involves commissioning a consultant to undertake an independent study to review the rationale and appropriateness of the definition for “intensive pastoral farming” for input to the Proposed Plan. This review will need to consider and ensure the current concept of having four freshwater management units remains ‘fit for purpose’ taking into account national planning standards requirements, amendments to NOF and the NPS-FM, and the new NES.
- Setting of environmental flow limits: Further work is continuing in-house to finalise environmental flow limits and associated policies and schedules. Currently we are ‘road testing’ a broad range of scenarios to identify default and catchment specific environmental flow (minimum flow and allocable volumes) and protection levels (benthic invertebrates and fish). Road testing includes identifying impacts on existing and future water users (e.g. average number of days of partial water restrictions, catchments likely to be fully allocated and for which catchment-specific limits might be appropriate, catchments likely to be over allocated and for which ‘claw back’ might be appropriate). In brief, the following approach is proposed:
- Individual catchment-specific limits setting out minimum flows and allocatable volumes to be set that protects existing water takes with high public value (e.g. municipal water supply, hydroelectricity generation), i.e. allows them to take more water than otherwise allowed through default limits.
- Individual catchment-specific limits for those catchments identified in Policy 6.1.2 of the current plan as fully allocated catchments, plus the upper Manganui River, for which additional takes will be strictly restricted.
Policy 6.1.2 of current Freshwater Plan [PDF, 104 KB]
- Individual catchment specific limits for large waterways that would allow more water to be taken than otherwise provided for in the default limits.
- Default limits that apply to all other rivers based upon 30% MALF allocatable volumes and 80% MALF for minimum flows.
- The identification and scheduling of a small number of catchments now considered ‘over allocated’ where the take does not have a public good and exceeds the default limits. For these catchments clawback is considered appropriate and will occur over time through the consenting process.
- Setting of water quality limits: Since the release of the draft Plan there have been further NOF amendments to the NPS-FM (and more are planned). As part of the section 32 analysis, it is recommended that further work be done to consider the options and confirm what limits should be adopted to give effect to the NPS-FM within the Taranaki context:
- Developing practicable and appropriate water quality limits (and associated policy framework and intervention measures specific to Taranaki conditions) is probably the largest piece of outstanding work vital to giving effect to the NPS-FM. The limit setting work will need to address:
- For each FMU, attributes and default (base line) numeric limits that contribute to achieving NOF objectives (and maintain water quality within the NOF bands) for inclusion.
- Any additional numeric and narrative limits to be incorporated in the policies and/or rules dealing with more specific issues/activities.
- National directions relating to limit setting such as any new NOF objective/limit metrics, the new NOF compulsory value for Māori values, interim N-cap measures and controls on the intensification of agricultural land uses.
- The timing for completing this work will necessarily be deferred until such time as Council can ascertain what changes are likely to be needed to give effect to the amended NPS-FM or the new National Environmental Standards.
Resource Management Act amendments
The Government is planning a two-stage approach to amending the Resource Management Act. In its report Essential Freshwater, the Government states that it “intends to make some amendments in the short term to reduce complexity, improve certainty, and improve public participation that will have an impact beyond water management. For water management, the proposed amendments will better enable regional councils to review consents, to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits as required in the Freshwater NPS. The amendments will also strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance. Longer term, the Government will consider further reform of the resource management system.”
National Policy Statement - Freshwater Managment
The Government is currently looking to further amend the NPS-FM for which it intends to conduct public consultation this year and to be in force in 2020. What is included in the NPS-FM could have a significant effect on the Freshwater and Land Management Plan as it is the main source of national direction for how councils should carry out their responsibilities in managing freshwater. The Government has indicated that the changes may “adjust timeframes for implementation, provide greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and provide better protection of wetlands and estuaries.” In its report Essential Freshwater published in October 2018, and subsequent discussions with Ministry for the Environment (MfE) officials, the Government has signalled it is also looking at amendments in the following areas:
- New threatened species policy.
- Adoption of a precautionary approach.
- Integrated catchment management.
- Requirement for no net loss of stream habitat.
- New NOF objective/limit metrics.
- New NOF compulsory value for Māori values.
- Elevating the importance of mātauranga Maori.
- Requirement for no further loss of wetlands.
- Amendments to NOF addressing nutrients, dissolved oxygen, sediment, copper and zinc plus avoiding decline of water quality within NOF bands.
- Amending definition of limits.
National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management
Also in the later part of 2019, central government will be looking to develop a new national environmental standard for freshwater management (NES-FM). Again it is difficult to pre-empt what impact any new NES-FM might have on draft Proposed Plan provisions/framework, however MfE officials have signalled there is likely to be national direction on the following:
- Requirement for audited farm environment plans and adoption of good management practices.
- Requirement for stock exclusion and riparian setbacks.
- Requirements setting out thresholds and performance standards for high-risk land use activities covering feedlots, stock holding areas and intensive winter grazing.
- N-cap limits targeting excessive leaching.
- Controls on the intensification of agricultural land uses and/or land use change.
National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity
A report from the Biodiversity Collaborative Group has been released and Government officials are working on the development of a Proposed National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity. A draft is likely to be consulted on in late 2019 with no final decisions anticipated before 2020. The major implications for the freshwater and soil plan reviews (resulting in a change in our current approach) would be any requirement to map and schedule all significant indigenous biodiversity areas.
The Council is still aiming to have a proposed plan ready for notification in mid 2020. Another update is scheduled in the next quarter.
In 2015 the Taranaki Regional Council provided a Draft Plan for targeted informal consultation. Forty-two written submissions were subsequently received. The submissions covered a range of matters and concerns and the Council decided at its meeting of 26 November 2015 to undertake further work and investigations to potentially resolve the issues raised.
Further work and investigations were also required to give effect to the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM), the revised 2017 version, and the associated National Objectives Framework.
This work, comprising ongoing engagement, research, investigations and information gathering, has subsequently been undertaken or is underway to underpin the development of a Proposed Freshwater and Land Management Plan that also meets the requirements of the NPS-FM.
Here is a summary of key activities, with links to relevant reports and other documents.
- In July 2015 the extension to Freshwater Physicochemical monitoring programme was established. This was a response to NPS-FM requirement that the Council ‘identifies a site or sites at which monitoring will be undertaken that are representative for each freshwater management unit’ [Policy CB1(b)]. All freshwater in every region must be incorporated into a Freshwater Management Unit as defined within the NPS-FM. The Council has identified four freshwater management units for the Taranaki region: water bodies of outstanding value; the ring plain, the northern and southern coastal terraces and the eastern hill country. Therefore, two new sites within the eastern hill country were added for the purpose of representativeness of freshwater management units: Waitara River near Tarata in the northern hill country, and the Whenuakura River at State Highway 3, on the southern borders of the hill country.
- In November 2015 the Council's Implementation Programme for the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management was prepared. This document sets out Council’s programmes and activities for giving full effect to the NPS-FM. The preparation and reporting of this document is required when a council cannot fully implement the NPS-FM by 31 December 2015 (all regional councils have subsequently been required to prepare these programmes).
- In October 2016 the council implemented the Dissolved Oxygen Monitoring Programme to meet the requirements of the NPS-FM that councils report on the characteristics of freshwater. Dissolved oxygen is one of six characteristics identified by the NPS-FM as it is useful as an indicator for ecosystem health within waterways. The programme involves the instalment of permanent monitoring stations across the region. The Council has installed and currently monitors 3 stations and additional sites will be added as the programme develops and funding allows. As the programme progresses the data may also be used by the Council to identify potential non-compliant discharges into waterways. The live monitoring data for two sites, Kaupokonui River at Glenn Road and Patea River at Skinner Road, is currently available to the public through the Council website.
- In March 2017 the Taranaki Regional Council Requirements for Good Farm Management was prepared and released. The document sets out directions on freshwater and land management activities that captures community expectations relating to the management of farm dairy effluent, riparian management, wetland protection, forestry, taking gravel, silage pits, stream crossings, dams, culverts, domestic wastewater, spraying, fertiliser application, vegetation clearance and stream modification. The requirements document is based on current and future policy and ensures best farming practices and environmental improvement while the Council continues reviewing its Freshwater and Land Management Plan.
- In April 2017 the Riparian management plan compliance certificate regime was adopted by the Council. The regime sets standards for farmers in order to complete riparian farm management to the satisfaction of the Council. As farmers complete the implementation of their riparian plans a riparian management compliance certificate will be issued for that property if the assessment checklist is satisfied. Since the adoption of the regime the Council has been conducting full farm audits in order to assist farmers to meet the requirements of the Council in order to attain a compliance certificate. Currently, no certificates have been issued and no certificates will be issued until the Water and Land Management Plan review process is concluded.
Council meeting agenda April 2017 [PDF, 2.9 MB] (see Item 9)
- In December 2017 the Council commissioned NIWA to investigate instream health and water quality arising from riparian management activities in Taranaki waterways. The report, Analysis of stream responses to riparian management on the Taranaki ring plain, which was published in March 2018, confirmed the effectiveness of riparian management as a mitigation tool to ensure Taranaki’s generally high water quality can be maintained and enhanced into the future. The study found that the Council’s long-running non-regulatory riparian management programme has led to improved ecological health in the region’s waterways, as well as reduced E.coli levels.
- In March 2018 the Draft Internal Report Incorporating Mātauranga Māori into Council monitoring of freshwater was prepared and adopted. The report provides a brief overview of the successes and challenges that other regional councils have experienced while incorporating Mātauranga Māori into their freshwater planning and monitoring. The report identifies some frameworks and monitoring tools currently being used around the country, as well as indicators from a Māori perspective and a western science view. The report further presents some recommendations for the Council to incorporate Mātauranga Māori into its freshwater planning and monitoring framework as required by the NPS-FM. The internal report has been used to inform the Council and consultation and discussion will occur with iwi in what is a complex area. The regional council sector is also preparing a stocktake report on Mātauranga Māori.
- In March 2018, the Council set Draft regional targets for swimmable rivers and lakes for the Taranaki region. These targets are a NPS-FM requirement and are required to be produced by all councils in order to improve the quality of fresh water so that rivers are suitable for primary contact. Those regions with excessive dairying will not be able to meet the targets which apply all year around, even when there is no swimming due to low temperatures and high flows.
- In June 2018 a Freshwater quantity accounting system was finalised. The spreadsheet based system sets out, for all Taranaki rivers and streams with consented takes, the amount of allocable water, minimum flows and the remaining available water for consumptive uses. The freshwater quantity accounting system is a live document that is updated when water permits are surrendered and/or new permits issued. Hence if you require a pdf copy you need to contact the Consents Manager, Colin McLellan.
- In July 2018 the Council commissioned Dr I Jowett to undertake a review of environmental flow limits and produce a report titled: Review of Minimum Flows and Water Allocation in Taranaki. This study addresses concerns raised by some submitters in relation to appropriate environmental flow limits for Taranaki waterways. The report examines international and national research that has been carried out into the effects of water abstraction and includes methods and principles for setting minimum flows and allocation limits in a revised Freshwater and Land Management Plan. The study is based upon flow data across a sample of Taranaki waterways and provides a range of scenarios for setting minimum flows and allocation limits that would provide various levels of protection addressing fish habitat and the ecological health of rivers and streams.
- In July 2017, NPS Periphyton Monitoring Programme was established to fulfil the requirements of the amended NPS-FM which specified periphyton as one of the compulsory ecosystem health attributes for councils to monitor. Prior to the changes the Council had an existing SEM Periphyton monitoring programme that had been operative since 1996 collecting data at 21 sites around the region, conducted every spring and summer including annual summer chlorophyll-a sampling and reported biannually against existing criteria. The new NPS-FM Periphyton monitoring programme is more rigorous requiring monthly monitoring regime regardless of weather or flow conditions at sites representative of each freshwater management unit, with the additional nutrient sampling to be undertaken concurrently with chlorophyll-a sampling, and more stringent criteria. In August 2018, a guidance document was released by the Ministry for the Environment titled ‘A draft technical guide to the Periphyton Attribute Note’ to help councils with the process set out in the Periphyton Attribute Note in the NPS-FM (amended 2017). The monitoring programme will be ongoing for at least three years (a regulatory requirement) prior to any assessment being available.
Key upcoming activities in 2018-19 and beyond
- Undertake consultation with iwi/hapū to develop a Mātauranga Māori monitoring plan (and revised Freshwater Plan provision) that establishes methods for monitoring Mātauranga Māori in freshwater management units.
- In association with the above, undertake consultation with iw/hapū on Te Mana o Te Wai to be incorporated into a revised Freshwater and Land Management Plan.
- Undertake environmental flow limits workshops with Dr Jowett, iwi/hapū, water users and other stakeholders to determine appropriate environmental flow limits for incorporating into a Proposed Freshwater and Land Management Plan.
- Undertake further consultation with iwi/hapū on the consideration of iwi values, including the identification of cultural sites of significance, in a Proposed Freshwater and Land Management Plan.
- Finalise Regional targets for swimmable rivers and lakes.
- Review and revise the Implementation Programme for the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management: Taranaki Regional Council.
- Complete work on a freshwater quality accounting system that defines and identifies relevant sources of contaminants to be accounted for in each FMU.
- Continue monitoring periphyton to inform a report following the regulatory minimum of at least three years of continuous monitoring.
- Continue work on the Section 32 RMA costs and benefits assessment for the Proposed Freshwater and Land Management Plan.
As noted in the Implementation Plan, the Council aims to notify a proposed Freshwater and Land Management Plan before 2020, subject to the above work programme being completed. Draft Plan provisions are being amended to incorporate the findings of the additional consultation and investigations and to incorporate recent changes to the NPS-FM and National Objectives Framework. Further changes to the NPS-FM are anticipated in 2018/2019. Hopefully, further changes to the NPS-FM will not impact on our programme.
In the meantime, Council continues to work through its consenting process and other successful non-regulatory programmes to achieve improvements in the state of our fresh water. Of particular note are the successes being achieved through treated farm dairy effluent discharges to water being directed to land in most cases, the uptake of riparian fencing and planting on intensively farmed land, and increased wetland and small stream protection. We do not have the pressing environmental issues faced by other regions that requires urgent action and a plan review. Environmental monitoring is showing overall ongoing improvements arising from the above programmes and community action. An example is freshwater ecological monitoring:
We look forward to these improvements continuing into the future.
Electronic copies of all relevant supporting reports including the Draft Freshwater and Land Management Plan can be found on the webpage you are now on. However, in the meantime, if you have any questions or points requiring clarification in relation to the Freshwater and Land Management Plan review process, please do not hesitate to contact Planning Manager Chris Spurdle or the Director - Resource Management, Fred McLay at the Council office.
If you would like to receive updates of this nature in future, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your details.
The Taranaki Regional Council’s current Fresh Water and Soil Plans are being merged into a Regional Freshwater and Land Management Plan for Taranaki.
Options for minimum flows & water allocation
The Council commissioned this scientific report analysing environmental impacts of different limits on freshwater flows and allowable water takes. It draws on long-term monitoring data to model the impacts of various flow and allocation limits on fish and invertebrate populations, and on the reliability of supply for water users. A factsheet summarises the report.
Following discussions with iwi and the Wai Māori Group, it was agreed that additional work was required to test the first report's assumptions on both small streams and large rivers. This follow-up report broadens the orginal study group of 12 sites by including sites on two small streams and two large Taranaki rivers, to give a total of 17 sites:
A Proposed Freshwater and Land Management Plan will go out for public consultation as soon as reasonably possible.
The Council has already conducted informal, targeted consultation on a Draft Plan, drawing valuable feedback that has highlighted a number of issues where further detailed work and consultation is needed. These issues will potentially have a significant impact on the shaping of the Proposed Plan. They include the setting of limits; inclusion of cultural values; and protection of biodiversity and wetlands.
In addition, the Government is proceeding with major reforms of the Resource Management Act. These create uncertainty and have the potential to have a major impact on the new Plan.
Changes are happening now
On a number of important issues relating to freshwater management, the Council has already clearly signalled its direction of travel. Changes are already taking place:
- Farm dairy effluent treatment and disposal: There is a marked swing towards land-based treatment and disposal of dairy effluent, and away from the discharge of treated effluent into waterways. Land-based systems are regarded as best practice and farmers renewing their effluent consents are already, in most cases, required to move towards such a system. This is the Council’s policy. There is also strong industry support for land-based systems.
- Riparian fencing and planting: The Council’s Riparian Management Programme is being implemented in a substantial way. The Council is confident that this project will be largely completed by the end of the decade. The project aligns with industry requirements, and with the Government’s proposed legislation.
- Protection and enhancement of native biodiversity: The Council has increased the resourcing for its Biodiversity Strategy. It works closely with landowners in successful protection and enhancement programmes targeting key native ecosystems. Working alongside landowners is the key to success.
Draft Freshwater & Land Plan & summary
Draft Freshwater & Land Plan information sheets
Water & Soil plan review discussion papers & technical reports
Analysis of stream responses to riparian management on the Taranaki ring plain
This study, commissioned by the Council and undertaken by NIWA, aimed to assess the relationships between the riparian fencing and planting undertaken in the Riparian Management Programme and stream health and recreational values in Taranaki streams. Overall, the findings of this study indicate that the programne has had beneficial effects on stream health and water quality for human health and recreation in the region.