We can do better – NZ’s Land and Water Forum releases its final report

Vines in Eastern MarlboroughWater is without doubt, critical to our well-being and to our posterity as a nation. Most of us might also agree that all too often, we New Zealanders do a less than brilliant job of managing such a precious resource. Some suggest we are saved from witnessing the worst results of our poor attitudes to water, by the fact that it keeps falling in abundant quantities from the sky. But water isn’t always abundant is it? As our planet experiences more extremes of weather, the abundance some of us have been used to, has turned to scarcity. In other places, too much of a good thing isn’t always desirable. In 2011, for example, Nelson had a pre-Christmas deluge of water that scoured out landslips across a wide area, destroying homes, businesses, and hurting livelihoods.

Flooding and landslips Tasman District, December 2011

The Land and Water Forum came about in 2009, because a group of people believed we could do better, a lot better, at managing water. For more than three years, the Forum, supported first by the National government’s Nick Smith, then Ministers Amy Adams and David Carter, built an unprecedented accord among its stakeholders, in support of a new fresh water management framework for New Zealand – a framework that is more transparent, efficient and fair, and will help resolve historic issues and provide certainty for the future (L&W Forum Nov 2012).

Third Report of the Land and Water Forum Nov 2012The third and concluding report of the Land and Water Forum has been released this week (15 Nov 2012). The first report set out a blueprint for land and water management reform. The second and third reports deal with ways to implement that reform. The third report is concerned with managing within limits. This is dependent on setting objectives, and determining the limits of a catchment – the subject of the second report. In that second report, the forum recommended further work to finalise a national objectives framework, and offered to carry it out. However, the government decided to seek advice on this issue themselves, and they have yet to finalise a framework. That the ministers sought to exclude the forum from this work is disappointing, as a sensible and widely agreed national framework of objectives is crucial to the improvement of freshwater governance in New Zealand. If iwi, farmers, other industry, and the public do not buy in to the framework’s objectives, then there are potential negative implications for the forum’s recommendations.

Kaiate Scenic Reserve and Rerekawau Falls near Tauranga

Kaiate scenic reserve and Rerekawau falls. This 7 hectare reserve was established in 1955, thanks to the Lett family giving up their grazing lease. Walking tracks were created between 1969 and 1972, with forest re-vegetation commenced in 1972.

The report’s authors note that the process of reaching consensus is never easy, and that there is one split recommendation, where alternative courses of action are offered, as consensus was not entirely reached in the collaborative planning processes. The authors further urge that the government respond to the three reports as a whole package. Implementing them in part, say the authors, risks the loss of consensus and the constituency for change which it has generated.

I took part in this collaborative process that began in 2009. A welcome outcome has been the release in 2011, after years of debate, of a National Policy Statement on Fresh Water. It’s a fairly lightweight NPS, but useful all the same. On release of the NPS, the government announced a welcome $15 million injection of funds over two years for cleaning up our worst waterways. This announcement was somewhat diminished by news at the same time, that their Irrigation Acceleration Fund would attract far greater funding ($35 million over five years, and much more in the longer term) – see article Have enough farmers cleaned up their act?

Kaiate reserve image of leaf in rushing waterA key finding of the Forum is that we should now view as false, the long-held perception that trading-off or balancing values against each other is an almost inescapable part of freshwater management. Rather, the Forum propose various ways to pursue environmental, economic and social benefits at once, including through accessing new water through efficiency gains and new infrastructure, adding value to our products and services, science and innovation, and leveraging off New Zealand’s solid environmental performance in export markets. The change proposed encourages people, enterprises and agencies to participate actively and collaboratively to seek and implement local solutions that are win-win for all parties.

The groups that came together to contribute to this Forum were people from all walks of life, and from near every part of the country – with public engagements held in 17 centres. A website has kept contributors updated on progress, along with regular emails, as the forum has achieved each milestone. This has been a satisfying process and one I hope government will have the wisdom to pursue in other areas. Community very often lies at the heart of finding satisfying solutions to unwieldy problems.

Kids at the creek - Manawaru School children play in a much cleaner stream thanks to their Enviroschool project

Manawaru School pupils enjoy the now much cleaner waters of Te Horo stream thanks to their Enviroschools community clean-up project.
Photo / Christine Cornege
Source / NZ Herald (read their story)


Here’s all the work of the Land and Water Forum to date, and some related documents. While acknowledging it has concluded its government mandate, the Forum propose meeting in July 2013 to debate the government’s response to their recommendations. Facts and figures above are from the report: Land and Water Forum, 2012. Third Report of the Land and Water Forum: Managing Water Quality and Allocating Water.  I acknowledge the Land and Water Forum website for the material that follows.

Third Report of the Land and Water Forum (November 2012):

Third Report of the Land and Water Forum (PDF 4 MB)

Press release (PDF 72 KB)

Ministers’ press release – on the Beehive website

Second Report of the Land and Water Forum (May 2012):

Second Report of the Land and Water Forum (PDF 1.75 MB)

Press release (PDF 202 KB)

Phase 2 (September 2011-November 2012):

Report to Ministers following regional engagement meetings (April 2011):

Report to Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry – 5 April 2011 (PDF)


Land and Water Forum: Summary of Points raised at Regional Engagements (PDF)

Land and Water Forum: Recommendations – Implementation (PDF)

Land and Water Forum: Note on Collaboration (PDF)

‘A Fresh Start for Freshwater’ Report (September 2010):

A Fresh Start for Freshwater (PDF)

Media Release (PDF)

Summary Report (Foreword, Executive Summary and Recommendations) (PDF)

Phase 1 (2009-2010):

Bullet points from the first six roundtables – Colin James (PDF)

Cabinet Papers:

The New Start for Fresh Water

Implementing the New Start for Fresh Water

Terms of Reference:

Land and Water Forum Project – A Fresh Look at Fresh Water

Letter from the Ministers to LWF Chairman Alastair Bisley (PDF)

Forum Chair’s speeches (and other general documents):


Alastair Bisley’s Speech at the Launch of the Final Report – 22 September 2010 (PDF)

Alastair Bisley’s Speech at the EDS Conference, June 2010 (PDF)

Alastair Bisley’s Speech to the Bluegreens, October 2009 (PDF)

Updates from the Chair:

Update from the Chair – 21 December 2011 (PDF)

Press release:

Land and Water Forum pleased at extended role – 15 September 2011 (PDF)

Update – March 2013 has seen the release of the government’s freshwater reform proposals, with feedback due by 8 April 2013:

Overview of 2013 reforms

Actions relate to three key areas:

  1. Planning as a community – introducing a collaborative planning option as an alternative to the current system under the Resource Management Act 1991.
  2. National Objectives Framework that requires national minimum environmental states in rivers and lakes for ecosystem health and human contact.
  3. Managing within water quality and quantity limits – requiring councils to better account for how all water in a region is used, including how much is taken and what is discharged into it.

You can comment on the proposals in Freshwater reform 2013 and beyond by email: watercomments@mfe.govt.nz

or write to:

Water Comments
Water Reform Directorate
PO Box 10362
Wellington 6143

Comments must be received by 5.00pm Monday 8 April 2013.

The government’s freshwater reform proposals are part of a wider reform programme encompassing the Resource Management and Local Government Acts. National priorities are changing, as part of the ‘streamlining’ of New Zealand’s environmental legislation, with resultant changes to planning and consenting regimes. Take a look at what’s proposed: Resource management reform phase two.

Click here to listen to a discussion (podcast – 11 March 2013) on the proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA 1991). Radio NZ National’s Kathryn Ryan interviews Gary Taylor, Chairman, Environmental Defence Society; Kerry Knight, Director of Equinox Capital; and former property lawyer and Environment Minister Amy Adams.

About robynmmoore

Anything to do with people and the environment and I'm interested! I have been writing and commenting about education, the environment and other community-related matters since 2006. I'm a compulsive researcher. In 2009, I finished a thesis on Kapiti's water issues and am still researching outcomes there. This website and the work I do as a trustee for the Whitireia Foundation are part of my aspiration to contribute to 'shaping more sustainable communities'...also the title of my thesis. Look it up - it's free at www.j.co.nz.
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2 Responses to We can do better – NZ’s Land and Water Forum releases its final report

  1. Great info and nicely written. Keep up the wonderful stuff!

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