Only about 40 submissions - far fewer than expected - have been received on the new rulebook for managing Northland's water, air, soil and coast.

A 10-week formal public consultation period on the Northland Regional Council's (NRC) Proposed Regional Plan will end at 4pm on November 15.

NRC chairman Bill Shepherd said the council had expected more submissions than those received so far, but anticipated a late flush as the deadline drew closer.

The "more simple, streamlined and easier to use" proposed plan will replace three existing regional plans, now more than a decade old, Mr Shepherd said.

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"More than three years in the making, our proposed plan is less than a quarter of the combined size of the three plans it will replace and also represents substantial input by numerous stakeholders along the way."

The broad range of activities it covers include coastal works, earthworks, water use and discharges to air, land and water.

"I've said before that it's not an understatement to label this proposed plan one of - if not the - most important documents council has consulted on for many years,"
Mr Shepherd said.

"It will impact, both directly and indirectly, on most Northlanders in some way."

Among key changes are new limits 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.

In a new approach to fresh water management, the Proposed Regional Plan also has tailor-made rules for five priority water catchments; Doubtless Bay, Pouto, Waitangi, Whangarei and Mangere.

The Proposed Regional plan is available online: www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan.