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Updating regional fresh water rules

Changing regional policies and rules to manage freshwater better

Since 2020, Regional Council has been researching and engaging with hundreds of people about changes to how land and freshwater are managed to address freshwater issues in our region, and implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPSFM).

Our six-month long community engagement period closed on 30 September 2023, and elected Councillors were about to consider releasing draft freshwater related changes to the Regional Policy Statement and Regional Natural Resources Plan (RNRP) for targeted feedback by the end of January 2024, before notifying changes formally in December 2024.

At a Strategy and Policy Committee meeting held on Tuesday 20 February 2024, Council decided to extend the timeframe for notifying proposed changes to September 2025 (from December 2024).  

Staff will reset the current work programme and release draft changes for approval later this year for a period of informal feedback.

We are mindful the government intends to change the NPSFM in the next couple of years and we will keep an eye on how this progresses and how our Plans respond to it. However, there are good reasons to continue to progress the plan change which (among other things) is intended to:

  • Improve environmental outcomes based on the latest science
  • Provide certainty for water consent renewals in 2026 and, in some cases, improve water availability for development.
  • Streamline our plans to be simpler for water users

If you would like to speak to someone regarding these changes please email Sue Simpson.

fmu map

Please note: We’ve been incorporating new information into our assessments of water available for allocation as we’ve been working through the engagement process. As a result, there have been a small number of changes to our maps of allocation status (for streams) compared to those in the Freshwater Management Units Information Booklets (available below). We’ve also worked through the available science for groundwater allocation and revised our thinking about groundwater availability. More information on this will be available shortly.

On 20 February 2024 at the Strategy and Policy Committee hui, Council made the decision to move the notification date for the proposed RPS Change 7 (Freshwater) and RNRP Change 19 (Freshwater) from 31 December 2024 to September 2025. Toi Moana staff have worked on a revised timetable toward this date. Given central government intentions, Council will revisit four policy topics, including Te Mana o Te Wai, tangata whenua involvement and Mātauranga Māori. 

The Kaupapa Māori Freshwater team continues to refine kaupapa Māori policy options within the draft RPS and RNRP. These kaupapa have also been shared and discussed with the Kaupapa Māori Technical Reference group and a final workshop was held with them earlier this month. The advice and recommendations from the group are being collated.

Tangata Whenua targeted discussions have continued. This approach was endorsed by Komiti Māori in October 2023. Aside from freshwater specific projects and interests of tangata whenua, our discussions have centred on keeping iwi and hapū abreast of the timeline to notification. It is important to ensure iwi authorities are aware of and are prepared for November/December 2024 when the draft RPS and RNRP are likely to be released for feedback. Schedule 1 of the RMA requires that Council provides a copy to iwi authorities and allow adequate time and opportunity to consider the draft and provide advice on it.

The feedback provided to date by Māori has been invaluable and will help inform the future plan change. 

Toi Moana continues to maintain an open invite for iwi, hapū and tangata whenua to engage with us on freshwater when they are ready to do so. Please contact Margaret Courtney at

Community and stakeholder engagement

Since late 2021 we have been talking to the community about what freshwater areas are important to them and whether they are happy with their current states.  in 2022 we also ran online public engagement about long term vision and outcomes for freshwater. 

We’ve been discussing issues and draft options with tangata whenua and advisory panels.

In the first three months of 2023 we went along to community events to discuss what we were doing and how people could be involved.  During the following six months, we hosted engagement events across the region, inviting people to attend and provide feedback.  At least two in-person events were held for each of the 13 freshwater management units and for those areas where change may have a greater impact, we held additional events either in-person or online.

We are assessing all the feedback received as we continue to develop policy options.  We are now resetting our work programme and will ask our Council to approve a targeted release of draft changes later this year for a period of informal feedback. 

In 2025, anybody will be able to make formal submissions on the proposed plan changes and can be heard in front of an independent freshwater hearings panel.

Freshwater Futures Community groups

In 2015, we set up three community groups in the Rangitāiki, Kaituna/Maketū and Pongakawa/Waitahanui catchments to provide input and advice as we worked on implementing the earlier versions of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (2014 and 2017). They helped us to identify local community values and desired outcomes for freshwater. They were starting to look at issues and solutions in their catchments.

While the work programme has changed, the input they provided is still valuable . We met with them again in April 2023 and will continue to engage with them as we work through the process. There are also several other community groups in the region with an interest in freshwater who we have been in touch with.

Regional and Environmental Sector Organisation Forum

This Forum has representatives of primary sector and environmental organisations. It provides early feedback and advice as we develop policy options for freshwater management. They help us to engage with their wider membership.

Territorial Local Authorities (TLA) Freshwater Collaboration Group

This group includes staff from each of the district and city councils in the Bay of Plenty region. We share information and promote collaboration on freshwater management issues, particularly relating to district/city functions like water supply, wastewater and stormwater networks.

Sign up to receive our Freshwater Flash e-newsletter.

For further information please see the draft issues and options paper summaries below. Note these present draft options that are still being developed and assessed, not approved Bay of Plenty Regional Council policy positions. Full draft Issues and Options papers will be available shortly. 

Please read the factsheet which provides further information about three of the many draft management options being considered to improve water quality. Note these draft options are still being developed and assessed. They may or may not be advanced further, and are not approved Bay of Plenty Regional Council policy positions. 

Retirement of compromised lowland farmland around highly degraded estuaries

Kaituna & Waihï Estuary - Retirement of low-lying land

Freshwater body stock exclusion and riparian setbacks

Retirement or grazing restrictions on steep land

Still have questions? Visit our freshwater information hub.

Freshwater Management Unit Community Drop-in events

Online workshops: Participants will be guided through the options that are being considered and feedback will be recorded. The workshop will be 90 mins in duration.
Registration is required with a minimum of 10 participants to proceed. Register at the links listed below: