The Northland Regional Council has released a draft of the plan that will eventually set out how the region's water, air, land and coast are managed.

The council said the release would give Northlanders an early chance to comment on the plan before it goes into the formal consultation process.

Council policy development manager Ben Lee said the Draft Regional Plan was effectively a rule book designed to replace three existing regional plans that are now more than 10 years old.

The new draft took into account important changes over the past decade, such as new national direction and policies made by the Government. It also reflected improved knowledge of Northland's environment, Mr Lee said.

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"We've attempted to strike a balance between protecting the things that Northlanders value, like clean water and air, while providing for our important economic activities - farming, horticulture, forestry, tourism and marine enterprise."

Mr Lee said the council's regional policy committee released the Draft Regional Plan on Monday to enable it to effectively "road-test" the plan with the community well before the council moved into the formal process.

"Public feedback on the draft as it now stands will help us shape the final 'proposed plan', which we hope to notify next year."

Mr Lee said that in a bid to reach as many people as possible, the council would deliver a four-page edition of its Regional Report newsletter to more than 60,000 properties this month.

"The regional policy committee is really keen for you to find out more about this important document and to provide crucial early feedback."

He said key proposed changes included new limits on taking water from rivers, lakes and aquifers, making it easier to get permission for mangrove removal, and new stock exclusion rules for rivers, drains, wetlands and lakes.

Aquaculture would be prohibited in sensitive areas and the new plan should make it easier to get a mooring.

The plan also identified new protected anchorage zones, more no-discharge areas and stricter rules on hull-fouling. There would also be more targeted protection for areas of natural or cultural significance.

"Meanwhile, we're also tailoring the way fresh water is managed in the Doubtless Bay, Pouto, Waitangi, Whangarei and Mangere catchments to address issues of particular concern to these communities."

- More information on the draft planat www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan and on the catchment management plans at www.nrc.govt.nz/waiorafeedback