Frequently asked questions

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The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) provides direction to local authorities on managing the activities that affect the health of freshwater. The NPS-FM is about protecting, enhancing and preventing further damage to waterways, lakes and the environment of New Zealand’s freshwater resources and start to make immediate improvements so that water quality is materially improving.

The NPS-FM outlines how regional councils, including Horizons, should manage the wai (water) and freshwater ecosystem health. It states that we must manage fresh water in a way that gives effect to Te Mana o te Wai, through working with tangata whenua, as well as working with the community to understand what is valued about freshwater. It also sets out a National Objectives Framework to develop attributes, states, flows and levels to achieve environmental outcomes for freshwater. The NPS-FM looks at water through a ‘ki uta ki tai' ('mountains to sea') lens and therefore Council will have a holistic approach to address freshwater in the region.

This means we don’t yet have all the answers as to how this will apply to different groups in our region. As we continue to move forward with this policy, we will share information to help everyone stay informed.

Freshwater impacts all of our lives everyday. This includes showering, bathing, swim spots, washing dishes, flushing toilets, stock drinking water, crop water, the beer you drink and the food you have access too. All of these aren’t possible without freshwater. It’s important you’re part of this process to understand your own relationship to freshwater and to express what you care about.

All feedback will be considered and inform the policy making process. There will be multiple rounds of engagement for you to have your say, this includes submitting on the draft freshwater policy in late 2026/early 2027.

Have a look around this website – there are lots of resources and information for you to engage with and learn more about freshwater in your region. This includes the regional approach to freshwater through our partnership with Iwi (Te Mana o te Wai), freshwater manage units (the boundaries for groups of catchments) – including the current state of the water in those areas and a space to have your say on how we manage freshwater.

Other sites that are useful are the Ministry for Environment and LAWA – Land, Air, Water Aoteraroa. Whether you are interested in science, policy, or an overview, there will be something to help further your interest and understanding.

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We hope that iwi will want to work with Horizons to help us to understand their relationship with the wai, and how it is best expressed. Horizons have been running, and will continue to run, workshops with iwi to enable the gathering of thoughts and collective thinking on Te Mana o te Wai, the vision, values, policies – and many other elements regarding freshwater.

Horizons is conscious that some Iwi have settlements that must be given their due regard. We are trying to work closely with the appropriate people and will be guided by them as to the best approach to complete the work and honour the intent and integrity of those settlements.

The ‘national bottom line’ is effectively a minimum standard for a measure of water quality or ecosystem health that must be achieved. Under the NPS-FM, Councils and communities must set target attribute states to provide for the freshwater values and objectives they have set. In all cases, targets must be set to maintain or improve freshwater quality or ecosystem health and cannot result in degradation.

Councils and communities must set targets that either meet or exceed the national bottom line, but generally cannot set a target below it. There are two exceptions in the Horizons Region: in waterbodies associated with the Tongariro Power Scheme, and in some areas of the Waiopehu FMU where Government has made special provision for vegetable growing.

The National Objectives Framework (NOF) sets out the process that requires regional councils to work with tangata whenua. This includes establishing values and setting target attribute states, environmental flows and levels, and other criteria to support the achievement of environmental outcomes that provide for those values. Establishing limits as rules and preparing action plans (as appropriate) to achieve environmental outcomes is also part of this work. Regional councils must also monitor water bodies and freshwater ecosystems and take action if degradation is detected, we already do this work in many parts of our region but will be increasing our monitoring programme in line with the NPS-FM requirements.

Under the NPS-FM, freshwater specifically refers to all rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. Although it does not specially identify attributes for groundwater, this will also need to be managed as a key pathway for freshwater.

We have a good understanding of our freshwater state and trends through many years of data collection, meaning we have a fairly robust understanding of the scientific trends in our waterbodies. Horizons has been working with communities across the Manawatū-Whanganui Region to improve water quality and environmental sustainability for many decades. This includes addressing issues such as excess sediment, nutrients and bacteria through reducing the impact of land use, urban and rural wastewater and industrial discharges.

Some of this work has been undertaken through our Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) and Freshwater programme. This includes subsidising riparian fencing and planting, and reducing sediment loss through erosion control, as well as three Jobs for Nature projects that commenced in 2020. This has all been made possible by significant investment from central government, our ratepayers and the landowners themselves.

Every river has a unique ecosystem consisting of all the organisms and physical environments that they interact with.If one part of the ecosystem grows or shrinks in its role, the ecosystem can be negatively affected. In a healthy ecosystem, the various components are balanced.We, the people that live, work and play around the river, form part of the ecosystem.

Information about the current state of freshwater is summarised for each Freshwater Management Unit (FMU), you’ll find those in the FMU section of this website. Freshwater monitoring data can be accessed via the Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website and via Horizons’ Environmental Data webpage.

The full details of the RMA reforms are yet to be decided. In the meantime Council must continue with the work programme set out by the Ministry for the Environment until such a time we are instructed otherwise.

There are a range of nationally agreed protocols that apply in New Zealand for data collection, curation and long-term storage, many of these centred around freshwater data. Where these exist Horizons generally meet these requirements and in the instances we don’t we are working towards meeting them (for example increasing the frequency of Lake sampling from quarterly to monthly). Field staff are highly trained, and all laboratory analysis is undertaken by an external independently accredited laboratory (where this accreditation exists).