The Government has invested heavily in developing policy to improve the management of fresh water. A National Policy Statement was introduced in 2011 with an objective of maintaining or improving water quality. In 2014 the ‘NPS’ was given real heft with the addition of a National Objectives Framework, which included ‘bottom lines’ for water quality.
The NPS is a major step forward, but we are not out of the woods yet – in many places, water quality continues to decline. To this end, the Commissioner recently released a report in which the NPS is examined in detail. In it the Commissioner recommends that regional councils prioritise the protection of vulnerable water bodies and catchments. The report points to five other areas that need attention when the Government reviews its freshwater policy. The Government has indicated it will consult on amendments to the NPS in 2016 as part of its freshwater reform agenda.