New freshwater standards take off

THE STATE of Gisborne’s favourite freshwater swimming sites will be on the radar this summer as new Government monitoring standards ramp up.

Earlier this year the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) announced changes to the freshwater National Policy Statement (NPS), including making 90 percent of the country’s rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040.

The new standards will also require monitoring of the macroinvertebrate community index, including indigenous flora and fauna, and incorporating matauranga Maori (knowledge) and Te Mana o te Wai.

The council’s environmental and regulatory committee was told by environmental and science manager Lois Easton these changes would extend the locations monitored for swimming water quality.

Previously MFE’s swimmable targets included all rivers and lakes deeper than 40 centimetres, but this had since been amended to sites where people swim.

The council would carry out workshops and consultation from October to March 2018 to identify these sites.

“Currently we monitor three known freshwater swimming sites — Rere Rockslide, Rere Falls and Doneraille Park,” Ms Easton said.

“We will have to get an understanding of places where people swim, how many there are and how often they are used.”
The estimated extra costs were $120,000 a year in lab testing, staff time and vehicle costs.

Council staff would be required to monitor the sites from October 1 to May 30.

The swimming test

If a site failed a swimming test, they would need to go back until it passed.

“It is a very onerous requirement — a full-time job over the summer,” Ms Easton said.

There was a requirement to improve quality across all waterways, so they would need to present a plan for this to MFE.
Of Gisborne’s potentially eligible freshwater sites, 75 percent would fall into the “swimmable” category, above the national average of 72 percent, but with much work to achieve the government targets.

Some areas were identified as very poor and they would be most difficult to improve, Ms Easton said.

“A lot of our rivers fall into the fair category, so the requirement would be to improve those to good and excellent,” Ms Easton said.

She said the council would also need to prepare a plan for incorporating matauranga Maori into monitoring.

“We need to be talking with iwi about that, but I expect some of that will come through the partnership arrangements and local leadership board.”

Even though the council just adopted the Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan in August, it would need to make amendments based on the new targets, she said.

Councillor Amber Dunn said she liked the idea of Western science being used in parallel with matauranga Maori.
“It will be really awesome to see what comes out when they are put together.”

She was concerned the Government was “drip-feeding policies”.

“We have just completed a freshwater plan, now they are continuing to shift stuff around.”

Ms Easton said they had requested to incorporate the changes into the new plan but it was not allowed. They would have to go through a plan change process. It would not be the last change either, she said.

“Fresh water is very much on the national agenda. There will probably be more changes to the NPS, which makes it very difficult for us in terms of long-term planning.

“The big one to come will be stock exclusion standards.”

Speed of changes

A council report said the speed of the changes meant it was hard to get certainty, creating issues for business and the risk of “consultation fatigue” with communities over freshwater issues.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz said the extra monitoring was “a great start”, but she was aware it would likely mean the council would need to spend more money.

“If the monitoring shows we need to do much more work, as a council we will need to get together and make sure there is money behind it.”

Ms Easton said she had a similar concern.

“The changes are making us spend more money on monitoring rather than doing, but those are the requirements.”

There was government assistance available.

This year the council received $847,450 in MFE funding, over five years, to expand the Wharekopae River water quality project.

This river feeds the Rere rockslide and falls and regularly falls below safe swimming standards due to E coli contamination from sheep and cattle.

“It is important for us to lasso as much (funding) as we can,” Ms Easton said.

“But much of the funding is only 50-50, so the council needs some skin in the game, and also the community.”

Councillor Josh Wharehinga said he supported the changes because fresh water was a “huge priority nationally, but also for us locally”.

“The proposals are quite futuristic. They have hono (connection) to what we are already doing.”

THE STATE of Gisborne’s favourite freshwater swimming sites will be on the radar this summer as new Government monitoring standards ramp up.

Earlier this year the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) announced changes to the freshwater National Policy Statement (NPS), including making 90 percent of the country’s rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040.

The new standards will also require monitoring of the macroinvertebrate community index, including indigenous flora and fauna, and incorporating matauranga Maori (knowledge) and Te Mana o te Wai.

The council’s environmental and regulatory committee was told by environmental and science manager Lois Easton these changes would extend the locations monitored for swimming water quality.

Previously MFE’s swimmable targets included all rivers and lakes deeper than 40 centimetres, but this had since been amended to sites where people swim.

The council would carry out workshops and consultation from October to March 2018 to identify these sites.

“Currently we monitor three known freshwater swimming sites — Rere Rockslide, Rere Falls and Doneraille Park,” Ms Easton said.

“We will have to get an understanding of places where people swim, how many there are and how often they are used.”
The estimated extra costs were $120,000 a year in lab testing, staff time and vehicle costs.

Council staff would be required to monitor the sites from October 1 to May 30.

The swimming test

If a site failed a swimming test, they would need to go back until it passed.

“It is a very onerous requirement — a full-time job over the summer,” Ms Easton said.

There was a requirement to improve quality across all waterways, so they would need to present a plan for this to MFE.
Of Gisborne’s potentially eligible freshwater sites, 75 percent would fall into the “swimmable” category, above the national average of 72 percent, but with much work to achieve the government targets.

Some areas were identified as very poor and they would be most difficult to improve, Ms Easton said.

“A lot of our rivers fall into the fair category, so the requirement would be to improve those to good and excellent,” Ms Easton said.

She said the council would also need to prepare a plan for incorporating matauranga Maori into monitoring.

“We need to be talking with iwi about that, but I expect some of that will come through the partnership arrangements and local leadership board.”

Even though the council just adopted the Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan in August, it would need to make amendments based on the new targets, she said.

Councillor Amber Dunn said she liked the idea of Western science being used in parallel with matauranga Maori.
“It will be really awesome to see what comes out when they are put together.”

She was concerned the Government was “drip-feeding policies”.

“We have just completed a freshwater plan, now they are continuing to shift stuff around.”

Ms Easton said they had requested to incorporate the changes into the new plan but it was not allowed. They would have to go through a plan change process. It would not be the last change either, she said.

“Fresh water is very much on the national agenda. There will probably be more changes to the NPS, which makes it very difficult for us in terms of long-term planning.

“The big one to come will be stock exclusion standards.”

Speed of changes

A council report said the speed of the changes meant it was hard to get certainty, creating issues for business and the risk of “consultation fatigue” with communities over freshwater issues.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz said the extra monitoring was “a great start”, but she was aware it would likely mean the council would need to spend more money.

“If the monitoring shows we need to do much more work, as a council we will need to get together and make sure there is money behind it.”

Ms Easton said she had a similar concern.

“The changes are making us spend more money on monitoring rather than doing, but those are the requirements.”

There was government assistance available.

This year the council received $847,450 in MFE funding, over five years, to expand the Wharekopae River water quality project.

This river feeds the Rere rockslide and falls and regularly falls below safe swimming standards due to E coli contamination from sheep and cattle.

“It is important for us to lasso as much (funding) as we can,” Ms Easton said.

“But much of the funding is only 50-50, so the council needs some skin in the game, and also the community.”

Councillor Josh Wharehinga said he supported the changes because fresh water was a “huge priority nationally, but also for us locally”.

“The proposals are quite futuristic. They have hono (connection) to what we are already doing.”

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