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Source: Auckland Council

The recent month-long consultation with Aucklanders on how to improve the region’s rivers, lakes and streams netted 3,500 submissions and has been hailed a success.

The chair of the group developing the council’s implementation of Auckland’s freshwater policy, Councillor Richard Hills, welcomes the wave of feedback received as a signal of how important freshwater is to all Aucklanders.

“It’s really encouraging to see the high levels of interest across our community, the agricultural sector and industry. The feedback numbers alone look pretty good and emphasise support for the key themes we asked about, which will help us to set the future direction for freshwater in Tāmaki Makaurau,” says Councillor Hills.  

The council’s consultation was held to check back in with the community and get their views of proposed measures to protect, use, and allocate freshwater.

“The results are still being analysed, but a high-level scan of the submissions indicates a strong community perspective on Te Mana o Te Wai – Putting the health of freshwater first, a general concern for water quality and a need for sustainable future planning.”

“There is plenty here for us to work with in the coming months as we further review our current approach against changes to government policies,” adds Cr Hills.

The project’s Planning Team Lead Kath Coombes leads the team with the task of analysing the community’s feedback and from here developing the freshwater plan that responds to the government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which is to be amended by the Government.

“I’m seeing a real depth of feeling for the physical health of waterways, how we can protect waterways against contamination, prioritise freshwater for human uses, and also allow for climate change resilience,” says Ms Coombes.

“The task ahead of us now is to document and report back to the Political Working Group and local boards in February and March 2024, then confirm our approach towards a draft plan change to the Auckland Unitary Plan and a companion action plan,” says Ms Coombes.

Auckland Council’s consultation with the community on how to improve the region’s rivers, lakes and streams ran from 3 November under 4 December 2023.

The community was asked for feedback on a wide range of topics including 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.

This work is driven by the current 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 currently 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 the region’s freshwater resources as soon as practical. The new government’s changes would extend the deadline by three years to 31 December 2027 and amend how Te Mana o te Wai provisions apply.

Early in 2024, the council will work through the government’s initiative to review and replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020, the implications on roll-out timing and advise the impact on its own planning and implementation approaches.

There is more information here on Auckland Council’s current plan to implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management in Tāmaki Makaurau.