The 21 Science Statements

Below are the final statements agreed by our panel of scientists. We have indicated if the agreement was unanimous, a strong majority (only 1-2
scientists disagreed) or a weak majority (more than 50%).

# Detailed Statement Agreement
1 Different people’s perspectives of water quality depend on what they value water for. Garnering these values is the
purpose of collaborative processes under the National Policy Statement.

However, underpinning these collaborative processes is a non-negotiable goal: to protect the heritage of future
generations. Government water policy should be designed to ensure the ecological qualities of waterways remain
above scientifically-defined irrecoverable tipping points.
2 New Zealand’s water quality is degraded in some areas developed for human settlement or pastoral agriculture. Unanimous
3 There are many causes of water degradation throughout New Zealand’s history. These include deforestation (for
many reasons); introduced species; disposal of human sewage; increased irrigation take-offs; manufacturing,
mining, urbanisation, flood protection schemes, hydro schemes, the drainage of wetlands and different types of
4 Many of our waterways, and lowland ones in particular, have been impacted in some or all of the following ways:
reduced shade cover; reduced flow; increased temperature; and/or they are have higher levels of sediment,
chemicals, nutrients and/or bacteria such as E. coli than they did in the past.
5 Sediment and E. Coli reduce ecosystem health, human health, livestock health and make swimming and fishing
difficult and unpleasant.
6 Lack of shade and excess nutrients are significant causes of the growth of weed and algal blooms, which can also
make swimming and fishing difficult and unpleasant. Other algal blooms (cyanobacteria to be precise) may in some
cases contribute to the creation of poisonous cyanotoxins, however the relationship with nutrients is less well
known as blooms can occur in much lower concentrations.
7 Depending on local conditions, it may take years or decades to see the impacts of current practices on water quality. Unanimous
8 The Macroinvertebrate Index is a better indicator of ecosystem health than any one nutrient variable. Strong
9 In recent decades the overall quantity of human sewage and industrial waste that has gone into waterways has
10 Landuse change and the increased intensity of farming is contributing largely to continuing degradation. Unanimous
11 More intensive farming is being made possible by increased irrigation, fertiliser and imported feed. Unanimous
12 There are a variety of ways of mitigating the impact of farming on water quality, depending on local circumstances.
They range in efficacy and cost; however, by matching the right mitigation strategy to the right place and right time
it should be possible to improve water quality and farm profitability.
13 NOF is a valuable start in establishing a framework for freshwater management but there is considerable scope for
improvement if it is to be effective in improving the management of all water bodies. There is an urgent need to
develop the NOF further.
14 When considered individually each of the NOF bottom lines (where they exist) is adequate to prevent waterways
from reaching a state of irreversible degradation.

Weak Majority
15 In some cases the approach taken in NOF does not account for the composite effects of water attributes. Unanimous
16 Composite effects may trigger ecosystem decline even though individual indicator bottom lines are met. Unanimous
17 Ensuring the NOF assists communities in the process of setting limits that are appropriate for a particular water
body but also reflect complex interconnections between waterways (such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and
groundwater) is a challenge facing those designing the NOF.
18 In theory using adaptive management is the best way to manage freshwater. Unanimous
19 To be effective, adaptive management requires a great deal of information, including comprehensive and timely
monitoring of water quality, land use, off-takes and discharges and a reliable understanding of the ecological
processes at work within catchments.

20 In practice, many catchments will not have the level of information required for adaptive management, so managers
will have to be precautionary in the way they manage their waterways.
21 Given the current wording of the draft amendment to the NPS-FM that includes the NOF with the exception of
‘outstanding water bodies’, ‘significant values of wetlands’ and ‘degraded’ water bodies that have been ‘over-
allocated’, it is unclear what protection the NPS-FM provides for water bodies with water quality above the bottom
line. As it currently stands NPS-FM Objective A2 (“the overall quality of fresh water within a region is maintained
or improved”) could be seen as allowing deterioration in some attributes within a waterway, or deterioration in
water quality within a catchment (providing on average there is no deterioration within the region).