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Why action is needed

The health of our freshwater is vital for the health of our people, environment, and economy. However freshwater quality is declining. It is being impacted by urban development, agriculture, horticulture, forestry and other activities. Current regulation has not been able to halt the decline in too many of our catchments.

We need to take action to restore and protect our wai.

Read the latest National environmental report on the state of our freshwater.


The action we are taking

The Essential Freshwater package introduces new rules and regulations to:

  • stop further degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater resources and improve water quality within five years
  • reverse past damage and bring New Zealand’s freshwater resources, waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation.

New National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management will prevent further loss and degradation of freshwater habitats and introduce controls on some high-risk activities. These came into force on 3 September 2020.

See also information on new Stock exclusion regulations and on regulations that will require real-time reporting for water-takes data.

Read the Minister's release: New rules in place to restore healthy rivers 5 August 2020 [Beehive website]

New rules and regulations

What the Essential Freshwater new rules and regulations might mean for you

Other useful information

How public consultation informed the policy decisions

Following public consultation on this policy package in September and October 2019, the Government received approximately 17,500 submissions. We have prepared a summary of submissions document. After consideration, we have decided not to publish individual submissions because of the size of the task involved in redacting identifying information from each submission.

Read the summary of submissions

The policies changed significantly in light of the public submissions and recommendations from the Independent Advisory Panel. The package was also amended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in light of new implementation challenges.

Find out about the Action for healthy waterways consultation

You can also find here a report setting out the Minister's decisions following recommendations from the Independent Advisory Panel.

Guidance on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

See the guidance section of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management

Further guidance is being developed with our Treaty partners and stakeholders and will be provided as it is finalised.