The Waikato Regional Council is confident it will meet new Government water quality standards despite a shortened deadline in which to do so.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 (NPS-FM) required councils to meet national water standards by 2030, but an amended 2014 version moved that goal forward to 2025.
Council chairperson Paula Southgate said council targets were already within the adjusted timeframe.
"Under our current programme, we and our iwi partners are making good progress towards implementing the NPS-FM by 2023, so we are moving ahead on meeting the new requirements well within even the new deadline," she said.
The NPS-FM outlines how councils should set objectives, policies and rules for freshwater management.
Under the NPS-FM, councils must maintain or improve water quality levels and avoid falling below a national bottom line which requires that water be safe for secondary human contact such as wading and boating.
Waikato Regional Council will meet Government standards through a series of regional plan changes starting with the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change and Wai Ora He Rautaki Whakapaipai projects which focus on the Waikato and Waipa river catchments.
Further council work on rivers in the Coromandel, Hauraki and West Coast will follow, however the Waikato River itself is not beholden to Government standards.
Under the Waikato-Tainui Raupata claims Settlement Act 2010, the river is governed independently by the Waikato River Authority. The authority's vision and strategy document prevails over any NPS-FM provisions that are inconsistent with it.
The Waikato River Authority is aiming for a net improvement in river quality by 2021 with an end goal of the whole river being safe to swim in and harvest food from.
Southgate acknowledged the difficulty of meeting the 2023 target but said she was pleased with efforts so far.
"There are many challenges to be addressed as we move ahead but I am happy with the strong co-operation occurring between ourselves, iwi, the farming sector and other stakeholders on improving water quality in our region," she said.
Environment Minister Amy Adams said effective freshwater management is crucial to New Zealand.
"Ensuring an on-going and reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental and economic issues facing New Zealand today," she said. "It is critical that we protect and improve the water quality that we all care so much about."
Don Rowe is a Wintec student journalist.
- Waikato Times