LGNZ submitted its package of recommendations to central government on how to shape up the Essential Freshwater Package into a fit for purpose regulatory package that will deliver the public’s expectations of sustainable, swimmable, healthy waterways.
The submission, which was led by regional councils, strongly supports the outcome the Government is looking to achieve, the focus on freshwater ecosystem health, and regulation to manage contaminants.
However, the local government sector, which comprises all district, city, unitary and regional councils in New Zealand, is calling on Government to walk back from the proposed one-size-fits-all regulatory approach, and partner with local government to right-size the freshwater reforms.
“One of our biggest concerns with the package is that it oversimplifies the problem with freshwater quality by assuming the issues are severe and urgent everywhere, and that we need regulatory intervention on a national scale,” said Chair of LGNZ Regional Sector Group, Doug Leeder.
“We absolutely acknowledge the challenges facing freshwater bodies, but the data shows that different waterways face different problems. That means we need tailored solutions to restore these ecosystems to a healthy state, not broad-brush regulation.”
The LGNZ submission identifies where further work is necessary, highlights areas where a cautious and adaptive approach to regulation is needed, and sets out a number of policy solutions aimed at restoring New Zealand’s water bodies.
“We’ve long held that while the current regulatory framework give councils the flexibility they need to tackle freshwater quality issues, we’ve lacked the regulatory tools and in many cases the resources to make the necessary changes fast enough to meet community expectations.”
“As proposed, the package gives councils the tools, but takes away the flexibility – we think the solution is to have both.”
The submission is supported by 13 case studies, which extensively examined the impact the proposed package would have on a variety of regions, from Northland to Southland. These case studies underline that local context is everything when it comes to understanding impacts.
The submission is further supported by an independent economic analysis of the Government’s Regulatory Impact Assessment, and a distributional analysis to assess how the costs will affect different communities across New Zealand.
“One of the key things to get right as we develop freshwater regulation is to ensure we take communities with us, whether they are urban or rural,” said LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“They need to have the confidence that the new rules will actually translate into measureable improvements on the ground, not just more red tape and reports that do nothing to deliver on what we all want to see – healthier waterways and greater environmental sustainability.”