The establishment of National Water Standards is being welcomed by the regional sector as bringing valuable guidance to local decision making. Chair of the regional sector, Fran Wilde, said the standards provide a clear direction from central government while allowing local democracy to do its job.
“All sectors of the community rely on freshwater for one reason or another. Regional councils are responsible for managing the country’s lakes and rivers and, in doing so, must balance the needs of the community,” said Ms Wilde.
“New Zealand’s geography alone results in the nature of rivers and lakes being vastly different depending on where in the country you are. Just as the alpine rivers of the south are valued for their aesthetic beauty, so too are the lowland river flats valued for their agricultural productivity.
“As a sector we believe it’s critical for local people to have a say in how their waterways are managed and to what level.
Ms Wilde said that minimum standards provide a solid foundation to begin conversations with communities about the values they place on a waterway and whether any changes are needed in the way its used and looked after.
“Until now, we haven’t had central government direction around how our rivers and lakes should be managed. The establishment of minimum standards provides clear guidance without disregarding the views of the community should they wish to go beyond these standards.”
Ms Wilde said that the maintenance of New Zealand’s freshwater relied on a strong partnership with central and regional government and this was evident in the number of restoration initiatives underway around the country.
“Regional councils and our communities are working closely with central government through programmes like A Fresh Start for Freshwater to improve rivers and lakes throughout the country. In many cases government funding is being met with regional funding with over half a billion dollars from taxes, rates and private initiatives going towards cleaning up and protecting our lakes and rivers since 2000.”