Over the weekend, the Ministry for the Environment released a consultation document called Next steps for fresh water.  This document outlines the Government's 23 initiatives to improve the management of fresh water in New Zealand.  A series of public meetings and hui will be held in March and April, and members of the public may make submissions on the document until 22 April 2016.

The Minister for the Environment, Hon Dr Nick Smith, and the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, say the Government's objectives are "better environmental outcomes, enabling sustainable economic growth to support new jobs and exports, and improving Māori involvement in freshwater decision-making."

One of the key initiatives is to create a nationally consistent approach to the exclusion of stock from water bodies, rather than allowing each regional council to make its own rules.  Iwi involvement in the protection and management of water bodies is also listed as a priority, with one of the initiatives providing for iwi to enter agreements with councils on how Māori can better participate in decisions around fresh water management.  The other initiatives relate to the economic use of freshwater, and strengthening the requirements for improved water quality under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.  Additionally, the consultation document proposes an investment of $100 million to improve water quality in New Zealand's lakes, rivers, and aquifers.

The Ministers' press release and a copy of the consultation document are available to download here.