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First step in the direction for fresh water – New Zealand Govornment

Note: The Land and Water Forum report is available at www.landandwater.org.nz

A comprehensive report by the Land and Water Forum on the management of freshwater in New Zealand has been welcomed today by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Agriculture Minister David Carter.

“The Land and Water Forum has achieved a first in New Zealand – consensus on a way forward for managing freshwater,” Dr Smith said.

“The Government initiated this collaborative process because the long term success of future water policies relies on broad agreement at a national level. Improving water management is one of the Government’s top environmental and economic priorities.

Finding durable solutions to issues of water quality, allocation and storage are essential to a healthy environment and our long-term economic progress.

“All 58 groups associated with the Land and Water Forum, led by its Chair Alastair Bisley, are to be congratulated for the report. Water is such a complex and polarising issue and to reach agreement is a major achievement.”

The Land and Water Forum will soon engage with the public on its report through a series of workshops around the country.

The Government will then consider the Land and Water Forum report and feedback from the engagement process, along with advice from iwi leaders and officials, before making long-term policy decisions around freshwater management.

Mr Carter said there was a lot of detailed work that needed to be done before any Government announcements on freshwater policy.

“Addressing freshwater management for the long term benefit of all New Zealanders is a task we need to get right,” Mr Carter said. “We should not underestimate how complex and challenging water issues are. The Land and Water Forum is telling us we need a big change in the way our freshwater is managed. We need to do it properly and this will take time.”

Note: The Land and Water Forum report is available at www.landandwater.org.nz

Attached: Questions & Answers

1.    Where did the idea of a collaborative governance approach to resolving freshwater issues come from?

National proposed the approach in its 2006 ‘Bluegreen Vision of New Zealand’. This work was heavily influenced by the research work of Ecologic funded by the Foundation of Research, Science and Technology on the Nordic countries alternative approach to resolution of difficult environmental issues. These ideas were translated into National’s 2008 Election policies, initiated on the formation of the Government, and announced in June 2009.

2.    How much has the Government funded the Land and Water Forum?

$1.3 million of public money has been provided to the Land and Water Forum which has assisted in meeting its costs. It is estimated that approximately twice this has been donated in time by the respective 58 participating organisations.

3.    What has happened to the ‘Water Plan of Action’ launched

by the previous Government in 2003?

This programme did not meet any of the timelines and was subsequently dropped and replaced by the Land and Water Forum process. Between

2003 and 2008, $9.4 million was spent on it. The major difficulty was that little agreement could be reached on the way forward for water policy.

4.    What is the Government going to do now it has the Land and

Water Forum report?

The Government has asked the Land and Water Forum to lead public engagement on the report. We want the public to have a say on the report and its recommendations and this information will feed into our policy decisions.

5.    Will the Government now implement the National Policy Statementon Freshwater?

We’re mindful that the Land and Water Forum has singled out the National Policy Statement on Freshwater as something it would like addressed quickly. But it has also asked the Government to consider some changes to the current draft and to consider a set of issues which need further work and which should be dealt with through collaborative processes. Officials are working on the Government’s options now. We also made an undertaking to seek the views of the Iwi Leaders Group as well as the Land And Water Forum.

6.    Some of these recommendations are very high level, are yousatisfied the Land and Water Forum has addressed the issues?

The Land and Water Forum was never expected to develop a fully formed blueprint for water reform. Its role was to develop a shared understanding of outcomes, goals and long-term strategies, and some options for achieving those. We’re very pleased with the level of detail in the recommendations and the success of the collaborative process.

7.    You mention there are three streams of work underway: the Land and Water Forum, the Iwi Leaders Group, and work by Government officials. When will there be some action taken by the Government on fresh water?

The Government wants to hear from the public before it makes decisions on what to do next. We’re likely to be in a position to start making some policy decisions from early next year.

8.    What happens to the Land and Water Forum now?

The Land and Water Forum is an independent body. We have asked the Forum to engage with the public on its report and recommendations. Any future role for the Land and Water Forum is yet to be determined.

9.    Has the Government made any decisions on the Forum’s recommendations?

No. The Government has only received the final report this week and Ministers have not had the opportunity to consider or discuss its contents. The Government is not ruling anything in or out.

We have three important further steps to take before making decisions.

First, we have asked the Land and Water Forum to lead a public engagement on the report to enable the community to be informed and to comment on its content. Secondly, the Government is committed to a dialogue with iwi on freshwater policy and we want to hear their perspective before making decisions. Thirdly, the Government wants to test policy proposals with its officials.

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