In our ongoing series of technical briefings we feature a paper presented at the 2016 IPWEA NZ conference in Auckland. National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management 2014 – Key implications for the consenting of municipal wastewater discharges. By Garrett Hall & Chris Scrafton, both from MWH Global in Auckland.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 (NPS-FM) recognises the importance of freshwater resources and sets out to provide a national direction through the management of freshwater bodies across regions.
A key aspect of the NPS-FM is the change required to the RMA planning framework to allow each region to implement the NPS-FM by 2025.
However, recent Environment Court decisions have highlighted that the NPS-FM will have significant consequences for the consenting of treated wastewater discharges to freshwater and land.
The full paper reflects on recent decisions in terms of key aspects of the NPS-FM for discharges of municipal wastewater including:
• Objective A2 ‘the overall quality of freshwater is maintained or improved’;
• Objective A2 ‘improving the quality of freshwater in water bodies that have been degraded by human activities and to the point of being over-allocated’; and
• Definition of ‘water quality’ versus ecological effects.
Many of these concepts, in terms of improving freshwater quality and ‘over-allocation’, cause difficulty when considering the process of obtaining consents for the discharge of treated wastewater.
The paper traverses the implications of these aspects of the NPS-FM, from a planning and scientific perspective, for local authorities when obtaining new discharge consents and the need for adaptive and innovative approaches.
Garrett Hall is principal environmental consultant, and Chris Scrafton, principal planner, both at MWH Global (now part of Stantec), Auckland.