History of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

The development of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. It includes the two suites of amendments made in 2014 and 2017. A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management came into force in 2020

2020 changes

The Freshwater NPS 2020 came into force on 3 September 2020. It replaced the Freshwater NPS 2014. It is one of four pieces of national direction for managing New Zealand’s freshwater.

Find out more about the changes 

Freshwater NPS introduced in 2011

In 2006, the Minister for the Environment prepared a national policy statement for the management of fresh water. This was referred to a Board of Inquiry in 2008. The Board heard submissions on the policy statement and prepared report of recommendations for the Minister (see the bottom of this page for a link to this report).

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (Freshwater NPS) was introduced in 2011. It was updated and replaced in 2014, and amended in 2017.

2014 changes

The Freshwater NPS 2011 was amended and replaced in 2014 to introduce the national objective framework as a way to help regional councils apply the requirements of the Freshwater NPS in a consistent way across the country.

The national objectives framework specified the process regional councils must use to set freshwater objectives. Objectives must, as a minimum, be set for two compulsory values: ecosystem health and human health for recreation. Some national bottom lines were introduced for the compulsory values. Objectives must be set above the national bottom lines.

The attributes (eg, total nitrogen, nitrate toxicity, periphyton) and their associated national bottom lines in the Freshwater NPS were selected on the advice of specialist science panels.

The scientists took part in a range of expert panels to consider:

  • the critical attributes of water quality for which objectives need to be set
  • the critical levels for each attribute
  • an appropriate level to set a bottom line before an ecosystem tipping point.

The proposed attributes were considered by a reference group of water users and managers which provided advice to officials on their workability.

2017 changes

In 2017 the Government amended the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (Freshwater NPS) so that it would:

  • introduce national targets for swimmable lakes and rivers.
  • increase direction for Te Mana o te Wai in freshwater management
  • provide direction for monitoring macroinvertebrates, managing nitrogen and phosphorus, and considering economic well-being
  • require regional councils to improve water quality in terms of human health.

River Environment Classification system [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research website] - Version 1 (incorporated by reference to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014, amended 2017)