Northland Regional Council is urging the public to use an online tool to let it know which freshwater places they use (or want to use), and what for.

Cr Justin Blaikie said the council was hoping plenty of people would log on to www.nrc.govt.nz/wheresyourwai before the deadline of November 24.

"We're keen to find out about the freshwater spots people use around Northland, and what the water's like there, so we can work out the best ways to look after our wai," he said.

"The Where's your wai? online tool is really simple to use. People just need to mark their spot/s on the map, and tell us a bit about it, which will help ensure we're monitoring water quality in the right places, and are monitoring the right things."

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The tool allowed people to indicate their main uses of freshwater for activities including swimming, fishing and other recreational activities, mahinga kai (harvesting natural resources, including food), cultural reasons and water takes (for example stock drinking water).

Cr Blaikie said the council had expended a great deal of time and resourcing on water quality issues in recent years, but Northlanders had repeatedly urged it to do even more.

"The more people who participate, the better picture we'll have about the freshwater places people use and the better we can prioritise where and how to focus our freshwater efforts."

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"As a result, water quality is one of three priority areas in our new long-term plan, and we've increased funding for improving water management by an extra $5.7 million over the next three years," he said. The other priority areas are reducing the impact of pest animals and plants and aquatic invaders, and boosting flood protection works.

"The more people who participate, the better picture we'll have about the freshwater places people use and the better we can prioritise where and how to focus our freshwater efforts."

The tool would also help the council to identify any new water quality issues that it needed to focus on, identify local and region-wide water quality issues, and whether it could do more to address them.

It would inform how the council implemented the government's current and future freshwater policy directives, including swimming water quality targets, which all regional councils were required to do by the end of the year, some of which were already in the pipeline.

The "blunt, and frustrating" truth was that there was no quick fix for water quality issues, however.

"Much of the good work happening today won't be reflected in our water quality results for a number of years. It really is a long-term investment," Cr Blaikie said.

But while Northland still had a long way to go.

"The journey's well under way, things are getting better, and in fact we already have more improving water quality trends than declining ones."

Many people and organisations, including the regional council, cared deeply about improving Northland's water, and were collectively working very hard to drive change.

"More and more land owners are investing in water quality initiatives such as excluding livestock from rivers and lakes and planting riparian areas, and whole communities are getting behind local water quality plans and initiatives," he said.

Similarly, huge investments were being made in district council sewerage systems, and farm wastewater systems were being improved as a result of industry and council initiatives. Rules on activities that could affect water quality were also getting tighter.

¦More information on the council's role in caring for water is at www.nrc.govt.nz/water