IrrigationNZ says that the timing of the Waitangi Tribunal report and recommendations on freshwater and geothermal resources puts Māori rights and interests in freshwater firmly back in the public spotlight, just when the Government is set to release a raft of policy changes under the ‘Essential Freshwater’ package.
“We are in favour of the Waitangi Tribunal report’s recommendation to establish a body to oversee future water governance and management, including whether a Water Act is required to provide a new framework for freshwater,” says Elizabeth Soal, Chief executive of IrrigationNZ.
“We agree, and firmly believe, that New Zealand needs a national water strategy and a body to oversee this strategy so that this precious resource can be used and allocated for the benefit of all,” says Ms Soal.
“However, any changes to New Zealand’s water allocation framework will have wide-ranging implications for current holders of resource consents, local government, iwi and hapū, other water users, and communities in general,” says Ms Soal.
“What is critical, is that all voices are heard and that transitions to a new system, if there is to be one, take into account investments that have already been made and how communities would best benefit from effective water allocation policies,” says Ms Soal.
“As well as the upcoming ‘Essential Freshwater’ policy package, the Government has announced it will be undertaking a full review of the Resource Management Act 2001, so it seems likely some of the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal’s Freshwater Report may be considered under that process.
“The recommendations of the Tribunal are very clear that it considers the current allocation system under the Resource Management Act needs to be changed in order to address the concerns of Māori in relation to freshwater.
“The Waitangi Tribunal Freshwater report is very detailed and traverses government policy development in relation to freshwater – both quality and quantity – as well as legislative provisions in the RMA and earlier laws, such as the Water and Soil Conservation Act 1967 which vested the sole right to the use and ability to allocate freshwater rights in the Crown.
“We are in exciting and challenging times in regard to freshwater management in Aotearoa - particularly given future uncertainties around climate change. This report highlights some of the key issues that need addressing if we are to ensure our water resources can be enjoyed by future generations and can continue to contribute to our country’s wellbeing” says Ms Soal.
“There are risks and opportunities ahead - but mainly, there are opportunities to get this right,” Ms Soal concludes.
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