Exposure draft of proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020

7 Jun 22

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) is seeking feedback on proposed amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM) and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (NES-F).

The proposed amendments are collectively referred to as the exposure draft. They fall into two categories:

  1. Amendments to the wetland provisions; and
  2. Technical corrections or clarifications to other provisions.

Amendments to the wetlands provisions

The NPS-FM and the NES-F came into force in September 2020. The respective instruments provide direction for the management of freshwater and set regulations for activities that pose risks to freshwater and freshwater ecosystems.

Since their coming into force, Councils and sector groups have raised issues about the wetlands’ regulations in the NPS-FM and NES-F. MfE consulted on proposed changes to the wetland provisions during September and October 2021.

The proposals consulted on were:

  • Clarifications to the definition of a ‘natural wetland’.
  • Consent pathways for additional sectors[1].
  • Refinements to the restoration policies, and recognition of maintenance and biosecurity activities.

The exposure draft seeks to respond to submissions on the proposal, and to issues raised during the consultation process.

The proposed changes include:

  • Amendments to the definitions, including the definition of ‘natural wetland’ intended to clarify exclusions of certain constructed wetlands and wetlands with 50% or more exotic pasture species;
  • Amendments to the tests of ‘functional need’ and ‘national and/or regional benefit’;
  • Proposed new appendices to the NPS-FM setting out principles for the use of aquatic offsets and compensation, based on those in the yet to be finalised NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity;
  • New discretionary consenting pathways for quarrying, landfills, cleanfills, mining and activities necessary for urban development;
  • A slightly expanded definition of “specified infrastructure” to include “any water storage infrastructure” as qualifying as exempt from the prohibited activity rules;
  • Changes intended to make it easier for a broad range of restoration activities to occur in natural wetlands;
  • An increase in the permitted size of infrastructure for fish passage;
  • Exemptions for flood control and drainage works; and
  • Amendments to the provisions for refuelling within a natural wetland.

Proposed amendments to the wetland provisions are shown as blue track changes in the NPSF-M and NES-F consultation documents.

Technical corrections and clarifications

Additionally, MfE has maintained a list of technical issues and provisions in the NPS-FM and NES-F that could benefit from correction or clarification.

These changes are not intended to alter the intent of the policy, but rather seek to improve clarity, reduce complexity and correct errors.

Proposed technical corrections and clarifications are shown as yellow track changes in the NPSF-M and the NES-F consultation documents.

Have your say

Feedback on the proposed changes can be made via the MfE website. The deadline to submit feedback is 10 July 2022.

[1] Quarries, landfills/cleanfills/managed fills, mining and urban development.


Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the exposure draft, please contact our specialist environment, planning and natural resources team.

Pdf version: here.