RPS_Waterfall banner image

Te Arotakenga Mahere Waimāori o Te Tairāwhiti

Regional Freshwater Plan Review

The Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan contains both the Regional Policy Statement and the Regional Plan provisions for freshwater, and therefore guides how to use and look after freshwater in the Tairāwhiti region. The Plan does this by identifying the issues for freshwater and what outcomes that are to be achieved.

Within the Freshwater Plan there are four main sections:

  • Water quantity and allocation
  • Water quality and discharges to land and water
  • Activities in the beds of rivers and lakes
  • Riparian margins and wetlands

Within these four sections are Region wide policies, rules and methods for planning practitioners to guide decision making.

The Regional Freshwater Plan needs to be reviewed to ensure they meet the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 requirements.


Development of the Gisborne Freshwater Plan started in response to the release of the proposed National Environmental Standard of Ecological Flows and Water Levels (NES).

Council commissioned The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to provide some advice on managing ecological flows and groundwater levels. This work, amongst other things, identified that in the absence of a regional water plan, the default limits that would apply under the proposed NES would be exceeded and effectively deny any further water takes.

Once notified, implementation of the provisions of the Proposed Freshwater Plan and Waipaoa Catchment Plan (the Proposed Plan provisions) commenced. While there are ‘Other Methods’ within the Plan, Resource Consents are still the main tool for resource management within the region.


Freshwater Advisory Group formed which was a collaborative group representing a wide range of interests across the region. This group oversaw the investigation into freshwater management issues and worked with Council to identify the significant values of the region’s freshwater bodies, appropriate options to address the issues and implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management NPSFM 2014 (NPSFM).


The Proposed Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan was publicly notified on 10 October 2015. 41 submissions were received and following this another 2,500 further submission points (opposing or supporting the original submissions) were received.


The Proposed Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan hearings took place between August and December 2016, with a decision released in August 2017.


Decision recommendations from the Hearing Panel were adopted by Council on 17 August 2017. 16 appeals were lodged with the Environment Court. Mediations on the appeals, were arranged into eight appeal topics by the Environment Court.


Six of the appeal topics were successfully resolved and formalised through the Environment Court’s consent orders in 2018. The Forestry topic was withdrawn in November 2018. The Cultural Interests topic was unresolved through the mediation process and progressed to an Environment Court hearing.


The appeal, lodged by Te Whānau a Kai, was heard by the Environment Court in September 2020. The Court decision on the appeal had declined most of Te Whānau a Kai’s relief, accordingly Te Whānau a Kai appealed the Environment Court’s decision to the High Court.

New national legislation was introduced - National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020


The High Court dismissed the Te Whānau a Kai appeal on 23 June 2022, and subsequently Te Whānau a Kai submitted to the Court of Appeal in November 2022.

Review of the Regional Freshwater Plan and Waipaoa Catchment Plan commences as well as six other catchment plans for the Tairāwhiti region.


In March 2023, the Court of Appeal declined Te Whānau a Kai’s application for leave to appeal.  Following this outcome, Te Whānau a Kai has submitted their application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on 13th April 2023.

Freshwater advisory groups are formed for the Regional Freshwater Plan and Waipaoa Catchment Plan. Engagement for other catchment plan commences.

Whilst the Appeal process was taking place, the Proposed Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan – Decision Version 2017 has also been through a Plan Change process to combine the 7 plans of the Gisborne District into the Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan 2018.

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM) is an important legislative tool for achieving national goals for freshwater. The Regional Freshwater Plan was built with the NPSFM 2014 as the guiding legislation. There has been two subsequent updates, 2018 and more recently the 2020 update.

The NPSFM provides direction on how local authorities should manage freshwater under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

Requirements include:

  • managing water in way that gives effect to Te Mana o te Wai;
  • applying a National Objectives Framework (NOF) to help manage freshwater;
  • avoiding any further loss or degradation of wetlands and streams, mapping existing;
  • wetlands and encouraging their restoration; and
  • addressing in-stream barriers to fish passage.

Te Mana o te Wai is the fundamental concept of the NPSFM 2020. Te Mana o te Wai refers to the vital importance of water. Te Mana o te Wai recognizes that protecting the health of freshwater protects the health and well-being of the wider environment – including people.

Te Mana o te Wai must protect the mauri of the wai. All freshwater management must give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, including the Regional Freshwater Plan. Te Mana o te Wai sets out the hierarchy of obligations to ensure that freshwater is managed in a way that prioritises (in this order):

  • The health and well-being of water;
  • The health needs of people; and
  • The ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

The NPS-FM 2020 strengthens and clarifies Te Mana o te Wai by providing stronger direction on how Te Mana o te Wai should be applied when managing freshwater.

As a requirement, every regional council must engage with tangata whenua and communities to determine how Te Mana o te Wai applies to water bodies and freshwater ecosystems in the region.

Our Region's Freshwater

The Tairāwhiti region covers a land area of 8,265 km² - approximately 4.9% of New Zealand's total land area. There are several major catchments and many smaller source-to-sea catchments along the coastal margin (refer to catchment map below).

The region's boundaries also include the headwaters of several river catchments that flow into other regions:

  • The Hangaroa and Ruakituri rivers flowing into the Hawke's Bay; and
  • The Mōtū, Waikura (Raukokore) and Whangaparaoa rivers flowing into the Bay of Plenty.

The Seven Catchment Plans Under Development

The Freshwater Advisory Group

Input from key stakeholders and the community is seen as an essential part of the process of developing the catchment plan. The Freshwater Advisory Group is being established to provide a significant part of that input.

The purpose of this group is to assist Council in its review of the Regional Freshwater Plan. This is part of its implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 and forms part of the review of the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan.

These plans will set the regulatory and non-regulatory framework for water quality and quantity within the region and Waipaoa catchment and eventually sit within the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan.

The group includes

  • A group facilitator has been appointed by Council.

As well as representation from the following groups:

  • Mana Whenua
  • General Community
  • Conservation
  • Forestry
  • Horticulture
  • Pastoral farming
  • Recreation

Evaluation of applications

The application process has now closed and Council has evaluated all applications.

Criteria for evaluating applications were:

  • Demonstrated strong link to Tairāwhiti region and/or the Waipaoa Catchment
  • Have an active interest in freshwater, and
  • Demonstrated ability to work with others and collaborate.

Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference were presented to the group at the first meeting in July 2023 and include, among other things:

  • Objectives of the Freshwater Advisory Group
  • Guiding principles
  • Member attitude and collaboration
  • Reporting requirements
  • Confidentiality

Collaboration and consensus is an important element of the Freshwater Advisory Group. The facilitator will provide guidance and mediation in this space. Each member will be expected to review and approve the Terms of Reference at the first meeting.

The Freshwater Advisory Group's first meeting was on 12 July 2023.

Meetings will be held each month and will be day-long workshops, starting at 9am and end at 2.30pm. There are expected to be up 11 meetings.

Workshops will be held in Gisborne city.


Members will be paid for each session attended. Remuneration is for the required preparation time, reading over prepared documents and liaising with Council staff with pre-meeting questions. Kai and refreshments will be provided.

Parking and the cost of travel by car within region will be reimbursed. Flights will not be reimbursed.

Using an online portal, group members will be provided with committee papers up to a week before the workshop. Members are expected to review the pre-circulated information. A range of technical information will be provided from Council’s freshwater team.

Members are expected to attend all meetings in person. Online options will be available in the event of sickness, however we aim to have as much face-to-face time as possible.

Members are expected to work collaboratively and respect other viewpoints. The aim is to achieve consensus on recommendations from the freshwater team. This may not always be possible, but all members must come to the meetings with that intention.

Terms for representation

We recognise this schedule is a commitment and we will allow members to review their role and if necessary swap with another representative from the same sector.

Membership is expected to be from July 2023 to June 2024.

Advisory Group Documents

Regional Catchment Map

Regional Catchment Map

How to get involved

  • Check for any open engagements - kōrero mai via our engagement portal
  • Ask us a question - email the team at trmp at gdc.govt.nz
  • Sign up for Council News | He Pānui - using this form.