In September 2020 the Government introduced new, broader freshwater management rules and regulations through the Essential Freshwater package.

We are now required to update our regional rules to give effect to these stricter national targets.

The health of our waterways is vital for the health of our people, environment, and economy.

Sadly, some of our waterways have poor or declining water quality as they are being impacted by what we do or the changes we are making – urban development, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, water use, diversion, damming and so on. This poor or declining water quality is affecting the ecology, swimability and ability to gather kai (food) and kaimoana (seafood) from these waterways or receiving waterbodies.

Existing rules and regulations have not been enough to halt the decline in water quality in some of our catchments.

The Government’s Essential Freshwater package introduces new rules and regulations for fresh water which aim 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.

The updated National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management are based on the fundamental concept of Te Mana o te Wai. This concept makes providing for the health and wellbeing of waterways the highest priority, secondly providing for human health needs and thirdly enabling other social, cultural and economic wellbeing related activities.  

Our regional freshwater management rules need to be updated by 2024 to meet these new targets.

This means that the land and freshwater objectives, policies and rules in the Regional Policy Statement and Regional Natural Resources Plan will change, new water quality targets and limits will be added, and water take limits (allocation and minimum flows) will change. Rules and methods will be established to meet these limits.

Staff across our Science, Policy and Planning teams are pulling together monitoring data, analyses, reports and modelling about the health of our waterways to get that big picture view of freshwater management issues. We’ll use this information to draft policy and rule options to help stop further degradation of our waterways and reverse past damage. We’ll start discussing issues and draft options with tangata whenua in 2022, and also advisory panels, stakeholder groups and our communities for their input and feedback (particularly in 2023).

The changes to our policies and rules must be formally notified in 2024.


These changes are likely to impact many activities in the region. This includes any activity that takes and uses water from rivers, lakes, groundwater and wetlands; discharges into water and onto land; some land uses and practices; and structures and works within rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Before the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS FM) came along, we had progressed water quality and quantity improvement work for the Rangitāiki, Kaituna, Pongakawa and Waitahanui catchments, and we discussed it with three freshwater futures community groups.

We spent 2021 working on science and technical information about our freshwater bodies and there is a growing number of detailed technical reports being prepared. We’ll be simplifying them into useful summaries ahead of public consultation in 2023.  

You can also learn about the health of fresh water in your area through our online Water Quality Reporting Tool or by viewing a summary of the data on our State of the Environment page.

In late 2021 we asked the community what freshwater areas are important to them and whether they were happy with its current state. This feedback will now be used to help shape vision statements and environmental outcomes for our Freshwater Management Units. You can learn more about the feedback we received on Participate BOPRC.

Water plays a central role in Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) as the essence of life. Regional councils have a duty to involve Māori in freshwater management, to the extent they wish to be involved. This is a long term journey of developing relationships, capacity and capability.  

In 2020, Council approved Te Hononga (PDF 5.06MB) , which sets out potential ways to involve tangata whenua in this journey and sets out the need to first ask tangata whenua how they would like to be involved. We’ve met with many iwi and hapū about this in 2021 and some tangata whenua led projects are taking shape.

Council staff are reviewing values and interests already expressed (PDF 5.81MB)  and are working to meet with iwi and hapū in 2022 about a draft long-term vision for fresh water and environmental outcomes for values in each Freshwater Management Unit. 

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 fresh water. They were starting to look at issues and solutions in their catchments.  While the work programme has changed, the input they provided is still useful. We will meet with them again when we have prepared draft policy and rule options.  There are also several other community groups in the region with an interest in fresh water who we will be in touch with at this time.

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 will also assist us to engage with their membership when the time comes.

Territorial Local Authorities (TLA) Freshwater Collaboration Group

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

Ngā Kaitohutohu

This is a group of advisors with both RMA and Te Ao Māori expertise. It will help to guide how we appropriately incorporate tangata whenua input and information into our new policies and rules. 

In 2022 we will be asking for feedback on draft long-term visions for fresh water for each Freshwater Management Unit as well as direction on environmental outcomes.

We’ll then draft rules that give effect to the aspirations the community have for freshwater and take these to the community for feedback.

Tangata whenua and community input and feedback will be critical to this process. Most consultation will take place in 2023 when we have more idea how we might achieve the outcomes the community wants and how we might give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, which provides for the wellbeing of these freshwater taonga for the future.  

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