Managing freshwater resources: insights from New Zealand’s policy experience with managing the impacts of agricultural non-point sources.
Landcare Research NZ
Water quality and availability, both surface and groundwater, are key natural resource management concerns in New Zealand. There has been a growing recognition around the nation of the greater scarcity of water resources primarily related to agricultural non-point sources of contamination and the intensification of agricultural production and its subsequent demand for water. This, increasingly, was leading to highly conflicted and contentious policy and planning processes around how best to manage these resources. Most of this conflict is between different agricultural sectors, between community and agricultural aspirations for the health of these resources and to a lesser degree between urban vs rural users. In response, New Zealand has dramatically changed the operating paradigm for managing freshwater resources over the last 10 years including new policy and planning processes and tools, improved approaches to science and its delivery and the use of more collaborative processes to engage communities and affected stakeholders.The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (2011 and the 2014 amendments), which is driving much of this change, decrees there will be mandatory limits set for water quality and water takes for all water bodies, including groundwater, in the country. This is affecting rural land uses through their direct impacts on water quality and abstraction of water or through constraints on land use change and intensification. More recently legislative change has formalised the use of collaborative processes as the preferred approach to setting these mandatory limits. The transfer of the responsibility to identify and set freshwater limits to communities is not without its challenges, particularly around the processes to set policy, the difficulties with making trade-offs between different uses and aspirations/values for water, and interpretation and use of science to inform decisions.We will outline some of the experiences of operating within the new policy and collaborative planning paradigms being used in New Zealand to manage freshwater resources and some of the more controversial policy issues that are arising, such as the allocation of water resources. An accompanying presentation outlines the challenges of and approaches to the type of science and its delivery to support collaborative decision-making.