The Southern Hill Country Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) covers most of the south east of our region. The FMU is split into a west and east sections by the Pātea Catchment, which forms its own FMU. The eastern section is heavily forested hill country which gives way to cleared valleys toward the coast. To the west, lower lying land is predominantly used for dairy farming. The coastal margins have their own small catchments which form part of the Coastal Terraces FMU.

The Southern Hill Country is one of six proposed FMUs for Taranaki. The other five are the Northen Hill Country, Pātea Catchment, Volcanic Ring Plain, Waitara Catchment and Coastal Terraces. The Council is proposing to divide the region into those six FMUs to allow development of purpose-designed solutions for these areas. These areas have been identified as having water bodies of an appropriate scale for understanding and managing freshwater.

The Council is seeking the views of the community and tangata whenua on the six FMUs as this feedback will guide targets, limits and rules in the new Natural Resources Plan to ensure freshwater is managed effectively for the whole community.

The Council sought community feedback on the Southern Hill Country FMU as part of its Next Steps for Our Freshwater community conversation from September to October 2023 and produced a consultation document which contained options informed by feedback gathered from earlier conversations with iwi and the community. This document is below and provides a wealth of background information about the Southern Hill Country FMU.

The Council's next community consultation will be asking for your views on specific limits and targets across the six FMUs. This will be key as it will define the targets the Council develops in the Natural Resources Plan. The feedback will run in March to April 2024.

For further information, see the Technical Memorandum documents which provide detailed scientific information about various aspects of water quality and background documents about the Government's Essential Freshwater reforms package. There are also quick guides to the Essential Freshwater reforms and Te Mana o te Wai.

Te Mana o te Wai

Te Mana o te Wai refers to the fundamental importance of water and recognises that protecting the health of freshwater protects the health and well-being of the wider environment.

It is about restoring and preserving the balance between the water, the wider environment, and the community.

These principles will guide us to improve the health and well-being of our waterways within a generation. It requires us to re-evaluate our relationship with freshwater and place the health and well-being of water at the centre of our decision-making. By prioritising the health and well-being of freshwater we protect the health and well-being of our people, communities and our long-term economic wellbeing.

In Te Mana o Te Wai there is a hierarchy of obligations. This hierarchy means prioritising the health and well-being of water first. The second priority is the health needs of people (such as drinking water) and the third is the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.

The six principles of Te Mana o te Wai

Mana whakahaere: the power, authority, and obligations of tangata whenua to make decisions that maintain, protect, and sustain the health and well-being of, and their relationship with, freshwater.

Kaitiakitanga: the obligation of tangata whenua to preserve, restore, enhance, and sustainably use freshwater for the benefit of present and future generations.

Manaakitanga: the process by which tangata whenua show respect, generosity, and care for freshwater and for others.

Governance: the responsibility of those with authority for making decisions about freshwater to do so in a way that prioritises the health and well-being of freshwater now and into the future.

Stewardship: the obligation of all New Zealanders to manage freshwater in a way that ensures it sustains present and future generations.

Care and respect: the responsibility of all New Zealanders to care for freshwater in providing for the health of the nation.

How we apply Te Mana o te Wai in the Taranaki context will be informed through engagement with our community and tangata whenua. For more information, check out this information sheet.