The government’s National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) aims to maintain all freshwater ecosystems in a healthy ecological state and restore those that are degraded. NPS-FM sets out 13 national values and uses for freshwater. Two of these are compulsory (1) Ecosystem health and (2) Public health and recreation. The 11 remaining values will be developed by each region, taking into consideration the values that are important to the community. Future freshwater management plans must also specifically consider Māori water values and ensure that iwi/hapū play a key part as partners in freshwater-management planning-process.
Irrespective of the need to apply a national framework, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for freshwater management in New Zealand. Even regionally, freshwater management quickly becomes a complex undertaking. Consider the variety of catchment areas within Otago’s five districts: Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago, Dunedin City, Clutha and Waitaki. The terrain ranges from tussock drylands to fertile plains, supporting commercial activities based around agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture. Alpine peaks flow into glacier lakes and feed the fast-flowing rivers that provide the country’s hydroelectric power.
Otago’s rural and urban populations are equivalent to less than five percent of New Zealand’s total population but are boosted by large numbers of visitors, particularly in Queenstown Lakes. There is an increasing awareness of the water quality issues resulting from factors such as population growth, tourism, changing land use and economic development.
Upper Clutha residents place a high value on our natural environment and the Upper Clutha is well ahead of the rest of the Otago region when it comes to catchment management planning. The Upper Clutha Lakes Trust is working with a range of stakeholders, including ORC and QLDC, to develop a community-led Integrated Catchment Management Plan for the Upper Clutha, with financial support from the Ministry for the Environment, Sargood Bequest, Million Metres and QLDC.
Effective freshwater management for the long term will combine top-down regulation, community-inclusive decision-making and wide collaboration. Meaningful solutions will require some trade-offs and compromises. Determining what needs to be done and the best way forward would be greatly enhanced by increased investment in scientific research to support fact-based decision making.
Upper Clutha Lakes Trust welcomes all contributions to the Integrated Catchment Management Plan process. Membership information is available on www.uppercluthalakestrust.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.