Factsheet: National Environmental Standards

New Zealand's government sets standards where appropriate so everyone in our country has clear air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean land to live on. These standards are called ‘national environmental standards’ and are regulations issued under sections 43 and 44 of the Resource Management Act and apply nationally.

They can prescribe technical standards, methods or other requirements for environmental matters. Each regional, city or district council must enforce the same standard. In some circumstances, councils can impose stricter standards.

National environmental standards not only protect people and the environment, they also secure a consistent approach and decision-making process throughout the whole country.

National environmental standards in effect

The following standards are in force as regulations:

Proposed National Environmental Standard on Ecological Flows and Water Level

The proposed National Environmental Standard on Ecological Flows and Water Levels (proposed NES) aims to promote consistency in the way the government decides whether the variability and quantity of water flowing in rivers, ground water systems, lakes and wetlands is sufficient. The proposed NES would do this by:

  • setting interim limits on the alteration to flows and/or water levels for rivers, wetlands, and groundwater systems that do not have limits imposed through regional plans or Water Conservation Orders.
  • providing a process for selecting the appropriate technical methods for evaluating the ecological component of environmental flows and water levels in rivers, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater systems.

The proposed NES is currently on-hold pending decisions on the Government's freshwater reform programme.