Media release

ORC adopts plan to manage water sustainably

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Otago Regional Council has voted to adopt a Progressive Implementation Programme to address how the region responds to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM).

The NPSFM (amended 2017), developed by the Ministry for the Environment, directs regional councils to manage water in an integrated and sustainable way, while providing for economic growth within set water quantity and quality limits.

The NPSFM requires the Otago Regional Council (ORC) to tailor its approach to water quality and quantity management to suit different river catchments or areas. As a region, ORC also needs to consider land use and development so that economic growth can be achieved while managing freshwater. Management of land and management of fresh water often work hand in hand.

This means that ORC will be reviewing the existing Regional Plan: Water, including assessing all the existing objectives and policies, by 31 December 2025. The result may be new or additional objectives, policies and rules introduced.

One of the first major changes to be implemented is the requirement that regional councils establish Freshwater Objectives and identify Freshwater Management Units (FMUs) for planning and managing fresh water.

A FMU can be a water body, multiple water bodies or any part of a water body determined by the regional council as the appropriate spatial scale for setting freshwater objectives and limits and for freshwater accounting and management. Each FMU must be defined so that its management responds to its particular issues and needs. The Council have set a completion date of April 2019 to have FMUs in place.

A second key part of the process will be discussion with iwi, rural landowners, farming and other industry groups, rural and urban Otago communities and other stakeholders to identify the values for each freshwater management unit.

Tanya Winter, Director Policy, Planning and Resource Management, said “Setting FMUs will allow us to move away from a region-wide ‘one-size-fits-all’ water management approach to an approach that allows us to meet the needs of each individual FMU. It will allow stakeholders in each community to have a say in setting the water values for their area.”

ORC will also need to establish methods and rules to avoid the over-allocation of water, as well as rules to prevent or minimise adverse effects on the environment of any discharge of contaminants.

Alongside this, the ORC will need to develop regional targets to improve the quality of freshwater in specific rivers and lakes. The NPSFM also seeks to improve the integration of water and land issues, so that fresh water resources, and the use and development of land are considered together in catchment areas.

While this work is underway, the current Regional Plan: Water remains in effect.



Tanya Winter
Director Policy, Planning and Resource Management
(03) 474 0827


Emma Schranz
ORC Senior Media Advisor