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Frequently asked questions

People, Water and Land programme Te Mana o te Tangata, te Wai, te Whenua

Q: What is the People Water and Land programme?

A: The programme is about taking the next steps to improve Southland’s water and land. It is a partnership with Te Ao Marama Inc. (as the environmental arm of Ngai Tahu ki Murihiku) and takes a ‘mountains to the sea approach: ki uta ki tai’. The programme’s vision is ‘inspiring change to improve Southland’s water and land’.

People, Water and Land will mean having community-led conversations and discussions about how you value water. Understanding more about the communities’ values and objectives will give us the information we need to take the best practical steps to improve our water and land.

On-ground action is critical to improving our water and land and to ensure our communities are resilient. We have complex and challenging issues to work through. But with a considered, step by step approach, we aim to achieve the best outcome for Southland and future generations.

The values and objectives will also help inform the regulatory process, which includes setting limits to manage freshwater by 2025, as required by central government under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

Q: What are the components/parts of the People Water and Land programme?

A: The People, Water and Land programme is focused on three areas of activity (or workstreams).

  • A focus on specific catchments and on-the-ground action to provide practical steps to improve our water and land, to learn and share information from these examples;
  • Engaging Southlanders in conversations about values and objectives, listening and sharing information about our environment and communities;
  • Establishing a regional forum that will advise Council on the methods to achieve the community’s aspirations/objectives for freshwater (including limits). The forum will be a feedback loop for Southland communities, both listening to them and sharing information from the regional forum.

Q: How will it be implemented?

A: Significant work is already underway especially with on-ground action. People are working hard to improve their land use practices, for example in the Waituna and Aparima catchments. This work is at the heart of improving our water and land and creating more resilient communities. We will support these initiatives and share the learnings with the wider community.

In the recent months, there have been community-led conversations and discussions about how you value water. You can continue to join in the conversations—Southlanders are 'in the driving seat' when it comes to the future of their water.

A regional forum has been established with the aim of strongly reflecting Southland’s situation and its characteristics. We want the regional forum to provide robust representation for Southlanders. Click here to read more about this group.

Q: When can we get involved, and how?

A: We want to hear your views about what you think about Southland’s water resources, how you value them and how we can look after them better.

There will be some key times when you can get involved in conversations about Southland’s water resources, which we’ve highlighted on the timeline above. These may include coming along to a local community meeting, joining an online conversation, participating in a survey, or talking with one of Environment Southland’s team.

As the People, Water and Land programme progresses we’ll let you know about opportunities when you can have your say and share your ideas.

Register to stay informed of these opportunities at www.haveyoursay.es.govt.nz, or sign up to the newsletter at www.es.govt.nz/subscribe.

Q: Is this process like the zone process in Canterbury?

A: We have moved away from a catchment-by-catchment approach to limit-setting, which is what was established in Canterbury, and will establish a regional forum as a community link and advisory group. We will still however work closely with community groups and freshwater management units as we recognise that specific catchment areas or freshwater management units (FMU) are likely to have distinctive characteristics that create unique challenges any may require different solutions. There’ll be more information provided over the coming months about how this will happen.

Regional forum

Q: How was representation on the regional forum determined?

A: Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama Inc. considered 60 applicants to the forum and what the best composition of the regional forum would be. We selected people who strongly reflect Southland’s situation and its diversity and characteristics. We looked at regions with a similar context to Southland, evaluated forums that worked well in these places and why, and examined how these forums have been constructed.

The forum brings to the table Southlanders’ views and thinking on freshwater values and objectives. It needs to reflect this thinking in the advice the forum gives to Environment Southland’s council during the freshwater limit setting process.

Q: What will the forum do, what are the key issues/questions that the regional forum will consider?

A: The forum will take all the information gathered from the community conversations and consider the options available to achieve the community’s objectives in relation to freshwater (which includes setting limits). The forum will work through the options and talk more with Southland communities and groups as options are developed. There’ll be assessments and scenario testing before the forum puts forward options including a preferred option or recommendation to Environment Southland’s council. This work is expected to be done by 2021.

Q: What will the link/relationship be with the Environment Southland councillors?

A: The regional forum will be an advisory group to the council and provides a connecting link to Southland’s communities, businesses and organisations.

The forum will consider and advise on the options for achieving the community’s objectives in relation to freshwater including setting freshwater limits. The council will then consider the options and decide whether to adopt the preferred option. This will include regulatory and non-regulatory methods. If the council decides to adopt this option, the Southland community will be consulted further on the preferred option as part of a statutory Plan Change process.

Q: How will linkages between the forum’s work and the wider community be maintained (so community can be informed of forum’s progress & opportunities to contribute)

A: Environment Southland has well-established, regular communication channels that it uses to connect with Southlanders. These channels, and potentially new ones, will be used to keep the community informed and up-to-date with the forum’s progress and to provide opportunities to contribute to the forum’s work.

Q: What steps will be put in place to ensure transparency regarding the regional forum deliberations and supporting science?

A: We want the regional forum to be as transparent and informative as possible in sharing information with Southlanders and in seeking feedback at key points as the options for achieving the communities’ values and objectives for freshwater including setting limits are considered. These considerations will be integral to discussions about how the forum will operate.

Q: Will the regional forum’s recommendations be binding, or will a plan change process follow?

A: The regional forum’s recommendations are not binding. When the forum decides on a preferred option for achieving the community’s values and objectives for freshwater including setting limits, it will then advise on the options and make a recommendation to Environment Southland’s council. If the council adopts the recommendation, it will then go through a statutory plan change consultation process. This offers Southlanders a further opportunity to have their say on the preferred option.

Limit Setting

Q: What is limit setting?

A: Setting limits for freshwater quality and quantity is one of the requirements for all regional councils under the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM). Southland is required to complete the limit-setting process by 2025.

The NPS-FM defines a limit as `the maximum amount of resource use available, which allows a freshwater objective to be met.’ For example, this could be limits on the total amount of water that can be taken out of a freshwater body, or limits on the amount of contaminants that can be discharged into it without compromising the desired outcomes (freshwater objective).

The Draft Guide to Limits under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (amended 2017) sets out more detail about limits and what they are.

By listening to Southlanders’ views about how they value water and what they want for future water resources, we’ll be able to make the best decisions with our communities, businesses and industries, as we work towards setting limits for managing Southland’s freshwater.

However, setting limits and targets for freshwater management is just part of what’s happening in the People, Water and Land programme. We also want to work alongside Southlanders to encourage the best practical actions that will give us healthy water now and in the future.

Q: How does limit setting affect me?

A: Putting in place maximum limits for water resource use is just one tool that will contribute to better management of Southland’s water resources in the future. It is part of a bigger picture of working together to also achieve the practical actions that will improve water quality and build a thriving, resilient Southland. We cannot rely on regulation alone to improve our freshwater—changing how we use our land and water is critical to achieving healthy water for the future.

For some farmers and other landholders, the government requirement to set maximum limits on the amount of water resource use could mean changes in the way land is farmed and looked after. Other businesses and industries may also need to make changes to meet new regulatory requirements.

Changing how we do things is often stressful and we understand that this is likely to be a challenging time. Our aim is to work with our communities to find the best pathway forward to manage Southland’s water resources now and in the future.

Q: Will water quantity and quality be dealt with at the same time?

A: Yes, establishing Southlanders’ values and objectives in relation to freshwater will include considering different types of resource use. Some resource use will relate more to ‘quantity’ i.e. the amount of water taken, while other types of use will relate more to quality.

In the case of water quantity, the concept is relatively simple i.e. water takes, dams or diversions. In the case of water quality, the concept of resource use is much broader. Examples could be the discharge of a contaminant, land use, stocking rates, or restricting access to water for stock.

Q: Will local communities still be able to contribute to the process of setting limits? How?

A: Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama are keen to hear as many views as possible from Southlanders about how they value water and how they want to look after it, so there will be many opportunities for communities to contribute to the limit-setting process.

At key times over the next few years communities will be able to get involved—some are highlighted in the timeline. Opportunities may include coming along to a local community meeting, joining an online conversation, participating in a survey, or sharing ideas with one of the Te Ao Marama and Environment Southland team.

While the regional forum will provide a formal link between Southland communities, Te Ao Marama and Environment Southland, developing options for limit-setting will be an iterative process. That means that the forum will continue talking with and listening to Southland’s communities, businesses and organisations to gather feedback as options are developed.

Freshwater Management Units

Q: What is a freshwater management unit (FMU)?

A: A freshwater management unit is a concept used nationally to plan and manage freshwater. The Ministry for the Environment describes a freshwater management unit as `the 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 purposes.’

Southland is made up of 5 FMUs—they are shown on the map at this link.

Q: What is my FMU?

A: Southland is made up of 5 FMUs—they are shown on the map at this link. If you are still not sure, please get in touch with staff at Environment Southland.

Q: Why refer to FMUs and not catchment areas?

A: A freshwater management unit is a concept used nationally to plan and manage freshwater. It includes catchment areas that feed freshwater bodies. We accept this term may be less familiar to some people. However, by using it we are being consistent with terms used in other regional councils and nationally.

Q: How will you manage issues that are specific to a single catchment/FMU e.g. water quantity issues on the Waiau?

A: We recognise that specific catchment areas or freshwater management units (FMU) are likely to have distinctive characteristics that create unique challenges any may require different solutions. By talking further with people in specific catchments or FMUs to better understand how they value water—and working closely with them to achieve practical actions that improve water quality—we aim to come up with methods that best meet specific catchment challenges.

Q: Will a separate plan be made for my FMU?

A: No. The intention is to retain one regional plan (the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan) that will then have different chapters, policies or rules for specific FMUs where required.