Wetlands:  national direction changes again

The Ministry for the Environment has released an exposure draft of proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPSFM) and the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020 (NESF).

These changes make amendments to the wetland provisions, along with what the Ministry describes as technical or clarificatory amendments to other provisions.

Wetland provisions

By way of background, the NPSFM and NESF set out national direction for managing wetlands. At a conceptual level, the NPSFM provides policy direction for regional planning, and the NESF regulates specific activities that are carried out in and around natural wetlands.

The Ministry consulted on amendments to these wetland provisions late last year, and has now drafted extensive changes to both the NPSFM and the NESF. These changes include:

  • Biosecurity: Inserting biosecurity provisions in both the NPSFM and NESF.
  • Natural wetlands in the NPSFM: Changing the definition of “natural wetland” in the NPSFM, including by amending the exceptions for both constructed wetlands and pasture; and inserting exceptions to natural inland wetland requirements in the NPSFM for urban development (which includes specific mention of urban development in Tauranga), quarrying, mining, and landfill and cleanfill.
  • Aquatic offsetting: Inserting principles for aquatic offsetting and aquatic compensation into the NPSFM.
  • NESF activities: Amending the activity status standards, including those around restoration, scientific research, wetland utility structures, and specified infrastructure, and inserting new consent pathways for quarrying, landfills and cleanfill areas, urban development, and mining.

Other changes

Some of the other changes include:

  • Limits: Inserting a definition of “environmental flows and levels” into the NPSFM, and clarifying that they are a type of “limit”.
  • Maintain/improve: Amendments to the NPSFM so that the policy direction to manage freshwater to maintain/improve the health and well-being of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems is not limited to the National Objectives Framework.
  • River beds: Amendments throughout the NPSFM so that the provisions around loss of river extent and values (including the effects management hierarchy) apply only to the loss of river bed extent and values.
  • Nutrients: Amendments to the NPSFM provisions for attributes affected by nutrients.
  • Fertiliser: Changes to the definition of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser in the NESF so that the exception for compost, soil treatment or fertiliser only applies where it is wholly derived from plant or animal waste or residue.


Feedback is being sought until 10 July 2022 and more information can be found at https://consult.environment.govt.nz/freshwater/npsfm-and-nesf-exposure-draft/.

Please get in touch if you would like advice around how these changes may affect you or your organisation.