Te Mana o te Wai and resource consents – our initial advice

Updated 8 October 2020

Selwyn WaihoraHere is our initial advice on the Government’s Essential Freshwater package, the concept of Te Mana o te Wai and their application to resource consents in Canterbury. This advice will be added to and refined as further information becomes available.

Recently the Government issued new national direction on the way we manage freshwater. Central to this is the concept of Te Mana o te Wai.

Te Mana o te Wai refers to the vital importance of water. Any resource consent application must demonstrate how it will ensure that freshwater is managed in a way that prioritises (in this order):

  • the health and well-being of water
  • the health needs of people
  • the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.

This is known as the “hierarchy of obligations”.

Guiding principles and obligations

The new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPFSM) establishes a set of guiding principles and a hierarchy of obligations (above).

The NPSFM strengthens and clarifies Te Mana o te Wai by requiring regional councils to:

  • set a long-term vision (inter-generational) for the water that is informed by aspirations of tangata whenua and communities for what the waterbodies should look like in future, an understanding of current pressures, and an understanding of the waterbodies’ history
  • report on progress towards the long-term vision
  • investigate options for tangata whenua involvement such as joint management agreements, and publicly report on decisions around whether to use these options.

Next steps and considerations

We are working with our partner Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Papatipu Rūnanga to build our understanding of Te Mana o te Wai in Canterbury, and how this should be given effect to. As we build this understanding, we will update our guidance to help those applying for resource consents.

People making decisions on consents must now have regard to the relevant provisions of the NPSFM and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (NES-F). The decision-maker must weigh up several factors. Considerable weight must be given to the principles of Te Mana o te Wai, and the requirement to put the health and well-being of freshwater first, then human health, and finally the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.

To appropriately incorporate this new direction into the decisions we make on resource consents, we need people applying for consent, or with consents in process, to assess the relevant provisions of these documents, and particularly how their proposed activities give effect to Te Mana o te Wai and the hierarchy of obligations (see above).

We also need people to check whether they require consent under the NES-F, and to apply for those consents when they apply for any consents they need under the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan.

To help people with these requirements, we will be contacting those with consents in process to explain what we need and why (PDF File, 199.62KB), and we will also be working closely with consultant groups.

More information

See our frequently asked questions on the Essential Freshwater package and Te Mana o te Wai.

Further detailed guidance will be provided as we work through understanding how the national direction and Te Mana o te Wai should be implemented.

If you have further questions, please send them to ecinfo@ecan.govt.nz. We may not be in a position to answer all questions immediately. However, we will come back to you with an indication of when an answer may become available or a redirection to where a suitable answer may be found.