Freshwater quality

Clean, healthy water is the region’s most precious resource, and the Council’s programmes and rules aim to help the community maintain and improve water quality.

Most notably, the region’s world-scale Riparian Management Programme has already seen thousands of kilometres of streambanks fenced and millions of native plants go into the ground on the Taranaki ring plain. The water-quality benefits of this work are well established scientifically.

Other measures to protect and enhance water quality are embedded in the Council’s Regional Freshwater Plan for Taranaki, which sets out conditions and standards that must be met by those who take water from and/or discharge to rivers and streams.

Taranaki waterways.

Taranaki has a lot of waterways: 286 main river catchments and 530 named rivers. The two largest rivers - the Waitara and Patea - drain large areas of the ring plain and hillcountry. The remaining catchments are relatively small.

How are we doing?

Current trends in ecological health and measures of a wide range of influences on water quality are the best ever recorded. For example, in ecological health monitoring in the 20 years to 2015, 44 sites have shown improving trends, with no significant deterioration at any site. The overall physical and chemical quality of fresh water is also good. There was improvement or no significant change in nitrogen levels in the 20 years to 2015. The majority of our monitored sites meet NIWA guidelines for most water uses, most of the time, and 95% of our measures lie in the ‘A’ (73%) or ‘B’ (22%) categories of the compulsory national objectives framework for water quality in New Zealand.

At normal (median) flows, most Taranaki rivers or streams are not overused or under pressure from water takes.

The past & the future

Pressures on Taranaki’s freshwater resource have been stable compared with many other areas, particularly those experiencing widespread dairy conversions or rapid urbanisation. Dairy cow numbers and fertiliser use, for example, have changed little in Taranaki in the decade to 2016.

The Council believes, however, that Taranaki should not and cannot rest on its laurels. The community has high and growing expectations and aspirations around the quality of our waterways. Protecting and further enhancing our freshwater resource will effectively ‘future-proof’ the region, ensuring that Taranaki can continue to offer economic opportunities and enviable lifestyles to the children and grandchildren of today’s citizens.