Regional Forum

Regional Forum group photo

Regional Forum members in April 2021 at Hokonui Runanga.

Playing a part in Southland's future

The Regional Forum was a community based group that advised Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members on how to achieve the communities’ aspirations for freshwater. Members of the forum considered specific policies as well as the on-ground initiatives required to make change and improve Southland’s water and land for generations to come.

In this important role, members played a key part in shaping how Southland’s water resources are managed now and in the future.

Regional Forum final recommendation report

The Achieving the Community's Aspirations for Freshwater report was presented to Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama at a Council meeting on 13 July 2022.

The result of more than three years’ work by the Southland Regional Forum, the report offers recommendations to address the gap between where the region’s freshwater is now and where it should be.

Regional Forum chair Fiona Smith said, “We’re proud of the result which provides a new approach for how Southlanders view and relate to freshwater.

“The forum focused on the sustainable hauora (healthy resilience) and mana (respect) of our land and water for generations to come. Some people have been more attuned to the risks to our freshwater and have responded as best they can. Now the whole community needs to be actively engaged in improving our freshwater because we’re all affected.”

In developing their recommendations, the Regional Forum has paid particular attention to partnership approaches and integrated catchment management, the role of wetlands, repurposing land for greater ecological benefit, and industrial and urban water management. The forum has also considered how their package of advice aligns with climate change and biodiversity outcomes.

> Summary of the key recommendations

Regional Forum's first report

Read the Regional Forum's first report to Council here. This report was presented to Environment Southland's Strategy and Policy Committee on Thursday 3 September 2020.

Hear from the chair of the Regional Forum

Fiona Smith was the chair of the Regional Forum. She worked alongside deputy chair Phil Morrison.

> Check out this introductory video of Fiona.

In 2019, she also spoke about involvement in the Regional Forum at the time.

1. Why did you put your name forward to join the Regional Forum?

2. What skills and experience do you bring to the table, generally and in the role of chair?

3. What has struck you about the process so far?

4. What are you most looking forward to in this process?

5. How do you want people to get involved in what you’re doing as a forum?

What is the Regional Forum?

The Regional Forum was a panel of Southlanders, set up as part of the People, Water and Land Programme - Te Mana o te Tangata, te Wai, te Whenua. This programme was a partnership between Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama (the environmental arm of Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku).

The Regional Forum advised Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members (Governance) on the methods to achieve the communities’ values and objectives for freshwater. It considered the specific policies and rules as well as the on-ground initiatives required to make change. Those considerations included the limits (e.g. water quality and quantity), targets, methods, impacts and policy context.

He aha te Rōpū ā-Takiwā?

He pae tāngata, te Rōpū ā-Takiwā nei, nō Te Taurapa katoa rātou, e whakatūria nei i raro i hōtaka - Te Mana o te Tangata, te Wai, te Whenua.

Ka noho tēnei rōpū hei āwhina i ngā mema o te kaunihera, Te Taiao Tonga me Te Ao Mārama mō ngā huarahi e tutuki ai ngā uaratanga me ngā whāinga mō te wai Māori. Ka āta whakatauria ngā kaupapa here me ngā ture tae atu ki ngā kaupapa mahi i te papa tonu, me whai wāhi mai kia puta ai he ahunga hou. I roto tonu i ngā whakataunga nei, me whai wāhi mai ngā taumata (hei tauira, te kounga me te nui o te wai), ngā whāinga, ngā pānga, ngā horopaki kaupapa here me ngā huarahi ka whāia.

What are they doing?

Over several years, the forum met regularly to work through the aspirations, values and objectives the Southland community hold for our water and land.

The forum looked to identify the regulatory and non‑regulatory methods to achieve the community’s values and objectives. Ultimately a plan change was required and notified in order to meet the NPS-FM requirement of setting limits by 2025. The NPS-FM gave national direction for freshwater management, recognising it as a matter of national importance and that Te Mana o te Wai is integral.

> Click here to find out more about what the forum was up to.

> Click here to read the papers from each workshop

> Click here to find out more about the members of the forum

For more information, email

Useful documents

Regional Forum - Recommendations report - Achieving the Community's Aspirations for Freshwater
Summary of Regional Forum recommendations
Regional Forum - Phase Two report
Regional Forum - Factsheet
Regional Forum - Terms of Reference

Background reports

Two background reports were used in the design of the Regional Forum:

August 2018 - Shaping Southland’s Regional Forum: drawing on lessons from elsewhere
September 2018 - The Regional Forum - Southland Context