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Auditor General report shows improvements made - Environment Southland

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The release of a report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) Managing freshwater quality: Challenges and opportunities has identified positive steps made by Environment Southland since the initial report in 2011, while continuing to identify some improvements needed.

Acting chief executive Vin Smith said he welcomes the report which looked at four regional councils including Environment Southland and assessed a variety of aspects including freshwater quality monitoring, national-level reporting, relationships with iwi and hapu, and compliance and enforcement tools.

The report found the four councils had made progress in managing the effects of land use on freshwater quality since 2011. Key improvements noted include better sharing of freshwater quality information with the community (e.g. through the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa website and in Environment Southland’s case the Southland Water Story), working more collaboratively with communities (e.g. Environment Southland’s partnership with Te Ao Marama Inc and involvement of the Regional Forum in the People, Water and Land programme), improved approaches to consenting, compliance monitoring and enforcement, and investment in non-regulatory approaches (for example, Environment Southland’s focus activity farm plan programme).

The report recognised Environment Southland’s efforts to involve the community more and to gather and understand community views more effectively, while the work of the Southland Economic Project was also acknowledged for its value in understanding the economic implications of different policies.

Vin said the report is extensive and highlights many areas where significant work has been undertaken to make improvements. He also acknowledged that there are challenges ahead and further work to be done.

The report identified potential opportunities for improvement in national-level monitoring, analysis and reporting of water quality and forming a national picture of freshwater quality, which are supported by Environment Southland. The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) was commissioned by the OAG to assess the councils’ freshwater quality networks as part of the report and has confirmed that the four regional councils have robust monitoring programmes and have invested significantly in this area. The research undertaken by NIWA will be used to assess potential improvements to Environment Southland’s monitoring programmes.

"The report acknowledges the significant effort and progress made by the Council and the community in dealing with the real challenges we face in managing our freshwater resources. Although there is still a lot of work ahead of us their recognition is a reflection of the important work that has been and will continue to be undertaken for the benefit of our community," said Vin.

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