< October 2019 newsletter

Have your say on looking after our water

The Ministry for the Environment is proposing a raft of legislative and regulatory changes to clean up lakes and rivers within “a generation”. 

Last month the Ministry released to the public their discussion document on our freshwater ‘Action for healthy waterways’. Proposals include changes to the Resource Management Act, updates to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, updates to the National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water, and the introduction of new National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and Wastewater.

We are consulting on a policy package to better look after our freshwater – our rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands. We are also inviting feedback on policies to protect our productive land, grow our cities to benefit people and the environment, and also better deal with harmful waste and chemicals”. 

Feedback from a variety of groups ranges from criticism from Federated Farmers –"All we ask is for regulation that is based on science and evidence", to qualified support from Fish and Game NZ and Local Government NZ. Responses from these groups, and a summary of the consultation document, can be read at the interest.co.nz website, available by clicking HERE

Media coverage Stuff: Government to get tough on farming and councils by regulating for water 

Proposals include provision for iwi to influence policies that affect us all

The document includes special provisions for the involvement of iwi and hapū in freshwater management, and identifying and reflecting tangata whenua values and interests:

“Iwi and hapū are involved in freshwater management, and tangata whenua values and interests are identified

and reflected in the management of, and decisions relating to waterbodies and freshwater ecosystems”.


“As part of the requirement to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, regional councils must engage

with tangata whenua in the management of waterbodies and freshwater ecosystems”.

However, even this does not go far enough for some. A media release on behalf of Ngāi Tahu - Fresh Water Plan Lacks Treaty Partnership – is critical of what it calls the lack of acknowledgement by the Crown of its Treaty responsibilities.

“Our 1997 Ngāi Tahu Deed of Settlement is a legal contract with the Crown. It confirms our Treaty relationship and tino rangatiratanga. The current national body is not reflective of this partnership and was set up in opposition to direction from Ngāi Tahu. We will only speak directly with the Crown about solutions that work in our takiwa (region).

While Matthew Tukaki, the Executive Director of the New Zealand Maori Council, says that the plan is a good first step, he also adds that:

"The truth is we have a very long way to go when it comes to cleaning up our water ways, reform of the Resource Management Act and the interests of Maori both as stewards and owners of freshwater”.

See: Voxy Government freshwater plan a 'good first step' - Maori Council

Also RNZ: Māori leaders call for water rights resolution after government's freshwater plan

Environment Minister David Parker reveals in an interview on Newshub Nation that the Government is going to move to on Maori water rights next, saying that Māori have rights and interests in water others don’t have.

In the meantime, one group of councils is not waiting for a directive from the Government but has already given iwi seats at the table for water management. Wellington Water, jointly owned by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, South Wairarapa District council, and the Lower Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington city councils, is responsible for drinking, storm and waste water management in the region. The Water Committee comprises one representative from each of the six shareholder councils, and now also representatives from both Ngāti Toa and Taranaki Whānui.

Media Coverage

Scoop: Iwi join water governance body

RNZ: Iwi get seat at the table for water management

The good people of the Wellington region would have to hope this arrangement does not follow the example of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, which is made up of 15 council/government representatives and 6 tangata whenua members. Members of Democracy Action have been attending the Forum meetings for the past seven years and have come to the conclusion that the tangata whenua members, along with sycophantic fellow travellers who should be acting in the best interests of the wider community, have no intention of allowing the Forum to be a successful advocate for environmental protection. Time after time we have witnessed this group reject environment enhancing proposals. Instead they focus on pushing for a 50/50 co-governance arrangement over the Gulf. (See Democracy Action media release Feb 2017 HERE).

As the Ministry makes clear, ‘Action for healthy waterways’ is a discussion document, so please take this opportunity to have your say.

You can submit your feedback using one of the following options:

  1. Use our online submission tool. (This is the Ministry’s preferred way to receive submissions).
  2. Answer the questions in the consultation document and email [email protected] 
  1. By post. You can write your own submission and mail it to:

               Freshwater submissions
                Ministry for the Environment
                PO Box 10362
                Wellington 6143.

What to include

  • The title of the consultation (Action for healthy waterways).
  • Your name or organisation.
  • Your postal address.
  • Your telephone number.
  • Your email address.

The official closing date for submissions is 17 October 2019 at 5pm. However, submissions will be accepted for a further two weeks beyond that date, until 31 October.

Reference material that may be of use when formulating your submission:

Water Rights Petition

Besides making a submission, you could also sign the NZCPR Water Rights petition addressed to the Prime Minister, which states:

 “As concerned citizens, we ask you to protect the common law status of water as a public good resource that cannot be owned, by rejecting all attempts by iwi to gain race-based water rights akin to ownership.”

And please call on others to sign as well.

Go back to the October 2019 newsletter


New Land and Water Regional Plan for Otago Regional Council

Image source: https://www.orc.govt.nz/media/11399/hierarchy-of-plans.jpg The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is in the process of developing a new Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) - in partnership with Kāi Tahu iwi. Together, they are talking with catchment groups, industry groups and subject experts to help develop the region’s new Plan for freshwater. This plan will include rules and limits on water and land use. Continue reading


All Water Services Entities will be required to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai. Three of its six principles will encompass all aspects of the water delivery system - specifically Mana whakahaere, Kaitiakitanga, and Manaakitanga. These principles are to be defined by tangata whenua. Continue reading

Three Waters reform to give iwi/Māori dominating influence

As the Government releases more information about its Three Waters reforms, it is becoming obvious that the proposed system is to be dominated by the rights and interests of iwi/Māori. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Three Waters paper ‘Opportunities for Iwi/Māori in the Three Waters Reform’ sets out how this will be achieved.  Continue reading

Three Waters Reform – further constitutional change by stealth

In another step in what the Government terms ‘partnership-based reform’ Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta last week released further information on plans to move the ownership and management of water infrastructure from local councils into the hands of four multi-regional water service entities across New Zealand. This information includes the proposed boundaries of the four water providers, and further details on the proposed water services entities - including governance arrangements, how they would be regulated, and the role of iwi. Nanaia Mahuta stated: “The Government will continue to work with the sector, iwi and industry on some of the details to give these transformational reforms the best chance of success. We will be making further announcements in the coming weeks, including a three waters reform support package for councils and their communities’’. Continue reading

Update on the Three Waters Reform Programme

Early last year many of us made submissions on the Water Services Regulator Bill. Following the public consultation process the Government passed the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Act in July 2020. The reform programme is now being progressed through a voluntary, partnership-based approach with the local government sector, alongside iwi/Māori as the Crown’s Treaty Partner.  Continue reading

Partnership trumps good governance - the Taupō water monitoring deal

The Waikato Regional Council is planning to outsource the monitoring of the waters in and around Lake Taupo and its tributaries to the Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board. This is despite the Council having identified the risk that it may be expected to undertake similar agreements with other iwi authorities or local authorities that may result in not being able to deliver on expectations due to competing priorities.   Continue reading

Influential role for Maori at new Water Services Regulator

Taumata Arowai—the Water Services Regulator Bill, open for public submissions until 4th March, seeks to create a new water regulator - to be called Taumata Arowai. The Bill includes provision for a Maori advisory group to work alongside this new Crown entity. The Maori Advisory Group is another manifestation of the government’s commitment to support agencies to form true partnerships with Māori "by actively facilitating new prototype partnerships between the Crown and Māori", as outlined in a cabinet paper released in July 2019, 'Building Closer Partnerships with Māori'. Continue reading

Action Plan for Healthy Waterways

Thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to make a submission on the Government’s 'Action for Healthy Waterways' discussion document. Around seventeen and a half thousand submissions were received, reflecting much interest in the proposals. From a democracy point of view, it is of great concern that several proposals point to the undermining of the democratic control of water, and include the intention to require local authorities to compulsorily include a vague and undefined set of values and interests in the management of the water bodies and freshwater ecosystems in their region. Continue reading


Last week the Waitangi Tribunal released its report on stage 2* of the National Freshwater and Geothermal Resources inquiry. The report recommends two specific amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 and a number of paths and mechanisms for co-governance and co-management. Continue reading

Iwi seeking governance of the Marine & Coastal Area, and authority over water

On March 26 Maori claimants from around the country gathered to make submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal for the rights to their coastal water areas, saying that since the foreshore and seabed march in 2004, progress has been slow in recognising iwi governance of their marine and coastal areas. Continue reading

Maori Council demands the control of water

The Waitangi Tribunal has recently been hearing the final part of stage of two of its inquiry into a variety of claims relating to New Zealand’s fresh water resources. (A list of the matters the Tribunal is focusing on is available on the Waitangi Tribunal website, see HERE.) Continue reading

Government's Freshwater Policy

The government released its water policy last month, see HERE. It avoids dealing with the question of ownership, instead focusing first on cleaning up rivers, and then looking into the more difficult issue of water allocation. Continue reading