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Outstanding Freshwater Body Project

In September 2014, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Auckland Council were awarded funding by the Ministry for the Environment through their Community Environment Fund to develop clear and consistent criteria for assessing and identifying outstanding water bodies, to assist with the implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM).

Project Background

The 2014 National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) requires regional councils to protect the significant values of outstanding freshwater bodies. However it stops short of providing a definition around what constitutes outstanding characteristics, features or values. This contributes to ambiguity around when a water body should be regarded as outstanding.

This project was initiated to provide better guidance for regional councils, by defining criteria and a methodology that could be used to identify outstanding freshwater bodies. The project also aims to reduce debate on what ‘outstanding’ means for communities involved in freshwater planning, and offer a consistent approach that could be used throughout the country.

The project is scheduled to be completed by June 2016.

Project Purpose 

The Project will provide clarification around the NPSFM’s outstanding freshwater body provisions and will deliver two key outputs:   

  • Principal Output: a set of criteria that can be used to identify outstanding freshwater bodies for the purposes of the NPSFM across New Zealand;
  • Secondary Output: a methodology for applying these criteria.

Ultimate ‘success’ of this project will be a set of criteria, and associated methods to apply them, which can be used by decision makers to identify outstanding freshwater bodies across the country and protect their significant values, in accordance with the purpose of the NPSFM. 

Project Plan and Milestones


  1. Engagement of Project Consultants 
  2. Report on intended purpose of NPSFM’s provisions re. outstanding freshwater bodies
  3. Developing a set of assessment criteria to identify outstanding freshwater bodies as per the NPSFM
  4. Developing and testing method/methodology for application of criteria
  5. Report on overall project (NPSFM intent; assessment criteria, criteria application method/methodology)

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