New way for water

19 Aug 2010

A new approach by community groups including Forest & Bird, industries, iwi, farmers and other groups attempting to reach a consensus on improving the management of freshwater is reaching a crucial point.

By Conservation Manager, Kevin Hackwell 

The Land and Water Forum has been working since last year to draw up
agreed options to halt and reverse the present general decline in lowland
water quality.

The forum wants to ensure water is not over-allocated so
the ecological, social and recreational values of lakes, rivers and streams can
be enhanced.

The forum is due to report back to the Government at the end of this month,
followed by the public release of the report in early September, and a likely
period of several months for public consultations.

Made up of 57 organisations, the wider forum has met five times, while a smaller
group of 21 organisations representing interested groups and private interests
has been meeting regularly, along with representatives of local and central
government.

I have represented Forest & Bird in the small group and I am also one
of the four trustees of the Land and Water Forum Trust, and Conservation
Advocate Quentin Duthie has stood in at forum meetings when I have not
been able to attend.

The forum has been looking at the role of clear environmental standards, limits,
targets and timeframes to underpin the methods which could be used to
improve water management.

One of these possible methods is to use independently audited good
practice for land-use and wateruse management. The forum has
also looked at ways in which its own collaborative processes could be used
for water management, reducing the time and resources needed in the
present - mostly adversarial - approach to water issues.

The forum emerged from a 2008 Environmental Defence Society
conference and was backed by the new National Party-led Government as a
way of trying to break the impasse on water management and find a more
collaborative approach.

The process has been jointly supported by the environment and agriculture ministers,
who have provided funding for the forum.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has also asked the forum to provide advice on the draft National Policy Statement
for Freshwater Management.