Public meetings will be held in more than 20 places over three weeks to provide information and seek feedback on reforms to the way freshwater, elite soils, urban environment, waste and hazardous substances are managed.

Environment Minister David Parker said the public meetings/hui, which started on September 9 will give New Zealanders a chance to have their say on the biggest programme of action to protect our environment since the introduction of the Resource Management Act in 1991.

"There is a widely held view that central government has not provided enough national guidance under the RMA. These changes address that.

"The state of our rivers, lakes and wetlands are a top concern for New Zealanders. They want us to take action to stop the degradation and restore the health of our waterways.
"We need to start now. If we don't, it will take longer, cost more and be harder to fix," Parker said.

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The Government's Action Plan for Healthy Waterways aims to achieve a noticeable improvement in five years and restore waterways within a generation.

"Many of the places we swam as kids are not safe to swim anymore. That's not good enough. Cleaning up polluted waterways is a long-term challenge that will take a generation to fix, but the steps in the plan will make a real difference and get things heading in the right direction," Parker said.

The Action Plan for Healthy Waterways sets out the proposed new requirements to improve freshwater, which include: raising the bar on ecosystem health, including protecting wetlands and streams (through a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management); set higher standards for swimming in the places Kiwis swim in summer; interim controls on land intensification, until councils have plans in place (2025) through a new National Environmental Standard (Freshwater NES); an accelerated planning process that will enable better, faster and more consistent freshwater management plans by regional councils (through the RMA amendment bill); support for the delivery of safe drinking water and improved management of stormwater and wastewater through an amended Drinking Water National Environment Standard and proposed Wastewater NES; improving risky farm practices where needed including ensuring farmers and growers understand and manage environmental risks through farm plans (Freshwater NES).

Federated Farmers said it is puzzled and frustrated over the failure of the Ministry for the Environment to immediately release the peer review of Essential Freshwater nutrient band technical reports.

"We're racing the government's extremely tight submission timeframe to do due diligence on what's proposed on new freshwater quality regulations, and why," Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

"The nutrient proposals have generated considerable attention and debate, not just by farmers, and we're especially keen to understand the technical details underpinning the main report."

On September 8 Federated Farmers asked the MfE for a copy of the independent peer review and was told last Friday (September 13) what was a straight forward query would be treated as a request under the Official Information Act.

This gives the Ministry up to 20 days to respond.

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"It is sound professional practice to commission independent peer review of core technical elements of proposals like this and the Essential Freshwater documents refer to, and rely on this review.

"It's absolutely part of the policy package and should be a public document. We simply don't understand why the MfE doesn't release it immediately," Allen said.

Submissions were to close on October 17 but in response to requests, the Minister said the Government will accept submissions up to 5pm on October 31.

The next public meeting will be held in Hamilton on September 23 at Hamilton Gardens Pavilion at 5.30pm.

See more at www.mfe.govt.nz