“Overall, the Land and Water Forum report is a good outcome and is a step change in trying to overcome the confrontational and expensive way water has been managed up to now,” said Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell, one of the trustees of the LWF.
He was also a member of the small group which has been meeting regularly since last year to build a consensus on improving water management.
The achievement of a consensus was very significant, Hackwell said, given the LWF comprises about 60 organisations, including primary industry groups, environmental and recreational organisations, iwi and other parties with an interest in fresh water and land management.
“We all agreed that national standards and limits need to be set to improve the quality of our water,” he said.
Because the report represents the consensus view of all the major stakeholders, Forest & Bird urges the government to seize the opportunity to adopt the forum’s recommendations as the way forward for managing New Zealand’s precious water resources.
Important elements in the report include a recommendation for a strong regulatory framework to accompany voluntary actions and that water management must be underpinned by a National Policy Statement (NPS).
An NPS on freshwater management was drafted by a Board of Inquiry last year and has been endorsed by the LWF with recommendations for minor changes.
“Now we look forward to some action, and because there is agreement from all stakeholders, the government has no excuse not to act
on this,” Hackwell said.
He added a note of caution, saying questions remain on how an improved water management system and the proposed freshwater clean-up fund would be financed, and the extent to which commercial users should be obliged to pay for the privilege of using water.
“Our position is there should be a cost for all commercial use of water and the money should be used for restoring water quality,” he said.
The LWF was set up last year by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Agriculture and Forestry Minister David Carter to advise on how water resources could be better managed.