Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor this morning announced the Government's plan to improve the quality of freshwater waterways in New Zealand.
"Clean water is our birthright ... local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook," Mr Parker said.
"There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline ... we're not going to leave the hard issues for future generations."
The new approach will also incorporate a new approach to the Maori/Crown relationship that will "acknowledge Maori interests in fair access to water to develop their land".
"New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality," Mr Parker said, "a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard".
"The rules will include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices ... we will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas.
"We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits.
Minister for Maori Crown Relation Kelvin Davis said the Government is committed to a "substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Maori land development".
Mr O'Connor said "Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally-sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
"Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resource they depend on, and recognise the important of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products."
The programme will deliver:
- Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying option for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.
- A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.
- A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.
- Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits, and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.
- Decision on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.
- Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups: Kahui Wai Maori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.