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What are we doing?

Improving the health of our waterbodies in Northland is very much a marathon, not a sprint, and the journey is well underway. Improving the resilience and reliability of our water supplies without affecting the health and well-being of water bodies is also a work in progress.

Our key actions are summarised below:

Policy and rules

  • Implement the government’s direction on water quality in ‘Essential Freshwater’ including: understanding and applying Te Mana o te Wai and development of a vision, freshwater objectives and targets / limits for water quality through a change to the regional plan. For more detail see New Freshwater Rules. We have established two advisory groups to help with this – a Tangata Whenua Water Advisory Group and Primary Sector Liaison Group. We have proposed resourcing Māori to assist in this work in our 2021-2031 Long Term Plan.
  • Refine our current water quantity limits (minimum flows and allocation limits set in the Proposed Regional Plan) with a focus on areas with high allocation and aquifers at risk from saltwater intrusion.
  • Refine our compliance monitoring programme to ensure regional and national rules and consent conditions are met. For detail on our current programme see our Compliance Monitoring information.

Monitoring and reporting

  • Define freshwater management units as a basis for managing water quality - Northland's Water Quality Freshwater Management Units 2021 (PDF, 2.1MB)
  • Refine our indicative water allocation tool (this shows the level of water allocation across the region).
  • Revise the freshwater monitoring network to ensure it adequately covers the region’s waterbodies and meets accounting, monitoring and reporting required under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2020.
  • Develop a wetland inventory, monitoring programme and map wetlands to better understand their state/condition and prevent further loss.
  • Work with Māori to incorporate matauranga Māori into environmental monitoring.
  • Increase the use of remote telemetry / sensing and continuous sampling in monitoring networks and consents for large water takes.
  • Develop a soil moisture deficit monitoring system to complement the drought warning system.
  • Continue to monitor farm dairy effluent, wastewater network and industrial discharges and take enforcement where necessary.

Science and research

  • Develop a regional ‘water balance model’ to identify areas where water is available and where availability is constrained and/or there is a risk of significant adverse effects as a result of water takes.
  • Develop predictive water quality models to assess current river water quality state where we don’t have monitoring sites and test the effectiveness of options to achieve objectives for water.
  • Support investigations into water storage options in the region.
  • Improve our understanding of climate change risks and monitoring climate change (such as saline intrusion into groundwater).

Action on the ground

  • Develop targeted action plans to reduce sediment loads from highly erodible land and streambank erosion and reduce E.coli concentrations, with a particular focus on improving water quality for public drinking water supplies, mahinga kai gathering areas and popular bathing sites and in estuaries/harbours.
  • Refocus the Environment Fund to complement action plans and support work undertaken by targeted catchment groups
  • Assist people to improve the resilience of their water supply during extended dry periods, particularly those remote communities not connected to public water supply.
  • Deliver on the Kaipara Moana Remediation programme (a joint $300m partnership between Māori, council and central government to improve the state of the Kaipara Harbour, with a particular focus on reducing sediment loads to fresh and coastal waters).
  • Continue to implement the Dune Lakes Strategy (and associated reporting) and management of freshwater pests in these lakes to improve their ecological condition.
  • Support landowners to develop of Freshwater Farm Plans by providing information to ensure they address local freshwater issues.
  • Continue to develop partnerships with Māori, industry sectors and other agencies to deliver improvements in freshwater.
  • Continue to expand our Flyger Road poplar and willow nursery so it can supply more trees for erosion control.

Freshwater Framework – a roadmap for the next 10 years

Water supports our environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing and a large amount of what council does relates to managing freshwater – it is a core focus in our monitoring, policy development, land management, biodiversity and consenting and compliance activities. The Government has also set out requirements for managing freshwater in its Essential Freshwater programme - Essential Freshwater policies and regulations: implementation guidance Most of these requirements are to be delivered by regional councils within set timeframes.

Council has therefore developed a framework that sets out high level goals, some of the water related challenges in Northland and the actions for managing freshwater it has planned over the next 10 years or so. It will help council keep on track and inform people of what we have planned – it does not have any statutory force (i.e. it does not include any rules) and is a living document that will be reviewed regularly so it remains current.