Building the plan

Building a plan

We are developing a cohesive and practical plan to provide for hauora, the health and well-being of waterbodies, within a generation. We’re building on what’s already been done, and drawing together the latest environmental science, regional economic analysis, Ngāi Tahu mātauranga (knowledge) and input from Southlanders.

At the same time, we’re supporting and encouraging action on the ground to make rapid progress towards healthier lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, springs, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters.

Find out more about what you can do here.

Check out the timeline of what's already happened and what's still to come.

Developing the Southland Water and Land Plan

Work towards improving our water and land has been underway for some time.

We’ve had a planned programme of work since 2011, when the Government first set out expectations for improving water quality in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM). The proposed Southland Water and Land Plan was notified (made public) in 2016. This set a foundation for managing water and land in the region based on ki uta ki tai, Te Mana o te Wai and hauora, which is already guiding outcomes in the region. The plan is currently going through the formal process of hearings and appeals.

Since that time, both the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the process by which Environment Southland proposes to implement it have changed.

In 2020, an updated NPS-FM strengthened the foundations of Te Mana o te Wai, already woven into Southland’s proposed plan.

Under the NPS-FM councils are required to work through a number of steps, including:

  • Identifying values and objectives for our waterbodies
  • Assigning attributes so these values and objectives can be measured
  • Setting limits, targets and preferred methods by 2025 to manage activities in a way that restores our degraded waterbodies and maintains those that are in good health
  • Creating action plans to support communities to make change and meet these limits
  • Engaging throughout these processes with tangata whenua and our communities

Environment Southland, in partnership with Te Ao Marama Incorporated (as the environmental arm of Ngāi Tahu Ki Murihiku), is working towards updating the Water and Land Plan in line with the 2020 NPS-FM.

This update is known as Plan Change Tuatahi (first plan change), and will set limits, targets and methods (for discharges to and abstractions from waterways) that will help achieve hauora, a state of healthy resilience, for waterbodies. There will be an opportunity for public submissions to this plan in 2023 before it is finalised in 2025.

Step by step towards a plan

  • Values. Southlanders want to be able to swim, fish, gather mahinga kai and enjoy our freshwater and estuaries, just as our parents and grandparents did before us. Confirming these values and others, was one of the first steps in the process outlined in the NPS-FM. This conversation started in 2019 with the Share Your Wai campaign. Te Ao Marama also led an iwi values engagement process. Find out more here.
  • Objectives. Taking these values, we’ve woven together one set of draft freshwater objectives that describe what we need to achieve to protect the things we value. The objectives describe what hauora, or healthy resilience, would look like in terms of attributes such as water quality and quantity, sediment levels, aquatic life and safe harvest and consumption of mahinga kai. Find out more here. These draft objectives will be finalised as part of Plan Change Tuatahi to the Water and Land Plan.
  • Regional Forum. The Regional Forum is a community-based group, set up in 2019 to advise Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members. Forum members are using science, economics, and Ngāi Tahu mātauranga (knowledge) as well as stakeholder and community input to consider the specific policies and on-ground initiatives that will improve Southland’s water and land for generations to come. The forum will provide recommendations on the types of limits and methods, and this will help inform the plan change alongsideother work programmessuch as Long-term plans, catchment management and partnership development. Find out more here.
  • Science programme. Environment Southland’s science programme has focused on better understanding our freshwater and estuary challenges and what will be required to address them. We have undertaken some scientific modelling of the contaminants nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and E. coli to better understand the scale of change, or levels of reduction required to achieve our objectives in our lakes, rivers and estuaries. We’ll continue to develop and review the science particularly on sediment. Find out more here.
  • Economic modelling. The Southland Economic Project was set up to develop robust tools to help us understand the impacts of achieving environmental limits. The project has provided reports, datasets and an economic model, which we are now using to provide information for our community discussions and policy development. Find out more here.
  • Limits and methods. To achieve the objectives, there has to be limits on the amount of contaminants that can be discharged and the amount of water that can be taken, and timeframes for meeting these limits. The limit setting process will give individual farms and businesses greater clarity about how much they may need to reduce contamination or water use, and over what time period. The Regional Forum will provide advice on limits and methods to Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama Inc. in mid-2022 and this advice will be used in Plan Change Tuatahi. Find out more about the Regional Forum process here.
  • Monitoring. To track progress in achieving objectives for waterbodies, more monitoring will be added to the existing programme, including incorporating kaupapa Māori monitoring.
  • Hauora plan. Achieving our values and objectives will require a combination of catchment-scale interventions, farm system change, land use change and innovation. To achieve a state of hauora, specific plans for a catchment or a contaminant issue in our waterbodies will be developed to guide actions on the ground. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy, as the amount of change required varies between catchments. The Regional Forum is considering the actions, tools and policies that will together make up the plan for achieving hauora in our waterbodies. It will provide advice to the council and Te Ao Marama in mid-2022. The whole community – businesses, farms and urban residents – will have to contribute. We want to recognise people who take early action, and avoid any increase in contamination from now.
  • Government relationship. Continuing to build our relationship with the Government is important, as it supports their understanding of the region’s issues, and our ability to meet their increasing expectations for water quality. We have a responsibility to improve water quality for now and future generations and we are focused on working with central Government to ensure we get workable solutions for Southland. We continue to work with Government agencies and other regional councils to ensure we're learning and sharing information. Letter to Ministers (Dec 2020) achieving water quality outcomes in Southland.

More information