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Source: Auckland Council

Freshwater rules are changing in Tāmaki Makaurau and it’s time for Aucklanders to have their say on how to improve the region’s rivers, lakes and streams.

Auckland Council wants to check back in with the community on what it thinks of proposed measures to protect, use, and allocate freshwater.

Councillor Richard Hills chairs the working group developing the council’s implementation of Auckland’s freshwater policy.

“The healthy state of our freshwater is essential to all of us. It will get worse if we don’t commit to improve our rivers, lakes and streams using the new measures that will sit behind our plan of action,” says Councillor Hills.

“We want to hear from every Aucklander with an interest in our freshwater future. Te Mauri o te Wai is about the life-sustaining capacity of water, putting freshwater first so we can improve our natural environment, keep people healthy and provide for all other uses,” he adds.

The details are included in a discussion document called Setting our Direction for improving freshwater in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland available at the council’s AkHaveYourSay.NZ online portal.

This work is driven by the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) which will affect how Aucklanders manage their land and water use.

The NPS-FM applies to rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, aquifers (groundwater) and springs. It is a government policy that requires councils to put the health of freshwater first, then consider the needs of people and other demands for water use. The council must notify changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan by 31 December 2024 and must also prepare action plans to support stakeholders and community groups to improve our freshwater resources as soon as practicable.

This consultation on freshwater opens on Friday 3 November and runs over four weeks until Monday 4 December 2023.

The council’s lead water scientist, Dr Coral Grant, understands the benefits to the region’s environment, communities and economy that will come from using new rules and tools as levers to protect and improve water quality.

“This complex work on freshwater and the valuable input already contributed by the community is helping us immensely. One example is in setting baseline states, by that I mean a starting point for us to measure the health of our rivers and lakes, and to assess our improvements over time. We’re checking back in with Aucklanders now on some of the key levers we plan to use, so we can be sure we’re moving in the right direction.”

“We’ll mull over the community’s feedback as we finalise our draft freshwater plan and yes there are a lot of technical decisions involved, such as to what degree we should better manage the trace levels of zinc and copper in our urban streams, travelling in stormwater from carparks, roads, some industry and construction activities.”

Go to AkHaveYourSay.NZ and give your feedback to put the health of Auckland’s freshwater first, and to access the link to an information webinar on the night of Wednesday 15 November.

Māu e kī, Tāmaki

More information

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM) is a government policy to guide how freshwater should be managed across New Zealand. It is based on the concept of Te Mana o te Wai – putting the health of freshwater first. It also includes how freshwater affects coastal waters – such as sensitive coastal areas like estuaries – and considers the impacts of climate change.

Auckland Council has a plan to implement the NPS-FM in Tāmaki Makaurau.

The council last engaged with the wider community in July 2022 when it asked for feedback to develop a vision and values for freshwater.

The feedback received by the council from this informal round of consultation will be further considered by the working group ahead of preparing the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP) Plan Change that is due for release in 2024. This will include a formal process in which the community can make final submissions next year.

At this point, the community is being asked for feedback on a wide range of topics that include the long-term vision for freshwater, values and outcomes, how to deal with the ‘outstanding’ waterbodies that need special management, how to protect and improve habitats, and how to manage the increasing demand for water.


The overarching vision is: To protect and enhance Te Mauri o te Wai – the life-sustaining capacity of water. Draft vison statements have also been developed for each of the three identified Freshwater Management Units (FMU), being Kaipara, Manukau and Hauraki.

Values and environmental outcomes

The council proposes to adopt 12 of the 13 national values, which are ecosystem health, mahinga kai, threatened species, human contact, natural form and character, drinking water supply, transport and tauranga waka, fishing, animal drinking water, irrigation, cultivation and production of food and beverages, and commercial and industrial use.

Hydroelectric power generation has been excluded due to being irrelevant to the Auckland region.

The council also proposes to add two new values, resilience, and amenity – which is enjoying being near rivers, lakes and waterfalls without necessarily going into the water. 

Outstanding waterbodies and primary contact sites

Relevant criteria have been developed for the outstanding waterbodies in Tāmaki Makaurau and assessing available information relating to Māori cultural values, ecological, landscape and recreational values.

The council also proposes to add more sites to Auckland’s Safeswim programme which currently includes beaches and nine freshwater sites. Another 14 freshwater sites are being considered for inclusion and the council may need to introduce stricter standards to reduce sources of contamination in those catchments.

Achieving the vision and environmental outcomes

The NPS-FM requires the council to set a baseline state for freshwater improvements, so the community is being asked for feedback on the baseline health of rivers, streams and lakes in Tāmaki Makaurau.

The council is asking if it should include and manage copper and zinc in this plan change as a way to improve urban streams. The inclusion and management of temperature is also introduced as a new attribute for all rivers across the region.

Setting ambitious but achievable targets is proposed to improve the health of waterbodies where they are poor, and at least maintain the state of waterbodies where they are already good.

Feedback is also sought on the environmental outcomes identified for the Pukekohe Specified Vegetable Growing Area, the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area and the Hunua Ranges.

Habitat protection and improvement

The council seeks feedback on its proposal to prioritise catchments in the region for fish passage remediation, and whether it should retain its existing regional standards for works affecting wetlands and streams where they are higher than national requirements.

Water quantity

The council asks how to fairly reduce water allocations to existing consent holders where that is considered necessary, and how to prioritise allocation where or when water is scarce.