Water management

Water management is one of the themes we're working on. Here's a brief description of what we're doing and links to our published reports about water...

Progress with our water management work 

Topic Status
Introducing our work programme - Water management Published
Drinking waterProtecting drinking-water sources
Looking at: How well local authorities are protecting drinking-water supply sources to ensure that there is enough safe and reliable drinking water for now and for the future.
No longer going ahead*
Drinking waterOptimising demand and supply
Looking at: How local authorities balance demand for and supply of drinking water to ensure adequacy of drinking-water supply on a financially sustainable basis.
FreshwaterQuality management
Looking at: The progress Waikato, Taranaki, Horizons, and Southland Regional Councils have made in managing impacts to their freshwater quality since our last audit in 2011.
Under way
FreshwaterClean-up spending
Looking at: How the Ministry for the Environment selects and monitors the performance of the organisations that it funds to improve and recover water quality. And whether its various freshwater funds are meeting objectives.
Under way
FreshwaterMonitoring irrigation
Looking at: How effective the Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010 have been in creating opportunities for better and more efficient use of water.
StormwaterReducing the effects of flooding
Looking at: How well local authorities are managing their stormwater networks to reduce flood risk, including how councils identify their flood hazards and determine levels of service for the stormwater network.
Marine environmentReserve proposals
Looking at: The decision-making processes for considering whether to designate marine reserve status for a body of water. The processes used to develop proposals and decide whether to designate a body of water as a marine reserve.
Under way
Marine environmentSpatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf
Looking at: How one multi-sector group is trying to balance competing water issues through taking a place-based approach to addressing the pressures on an area of national significance – the Hauraki Gulf.

* This audit has been superceded by developments following on from the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry. In our view, continuing with the work we had planned would no longer be a good use of taxpayers' money.

Other water-related work

As well as the work listed above, we are looking at the significant water management matters that councils are consulting their communities about when preparing their 10-year long-term plans and 30-year infrastructure strategies. This involves identifying, where available, councils' information on the cost implications of meeting environmental standards. We are also interested in understanding how councils are responding to the findings and recommendations of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry, including how they are considering the resilience of their infrastructure. We’ll be reporting our findings and observations from looking at long-term plans in two reports:

  • in August we plan to publish a report on how local authorities consulted their communities on the 10-year plans; and 
  • later in the year, we will publish our usual report on matters arising from our audits of the latest long-term plans.

About our water management theme

Focus of our current work programme - water managementNew Zealanders rely on water for their long-term health and economic, environmental, social, and cultural well-being. Some of the most important environmental and economic issues that New Zealand currently faces are associated with water.

Under our theme of water management, we're looking at how well the public sector manages water. We're exploring aspects of drinking water, freshwater, stormwater, and marine waters. Our aim is to help improve public management of water through sharing our observations of good practice and innovation, and identifying barriers to these.

We won't be commenting on the policies of the Government or local authorities. We also do not intend to duplicate any of the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Our published reports and blog posts about water

Here's a list of work we've already produced about water:

Using different processes to protect marine environments

June 2019: This report looks at how two groups used two different processes that generated advice to Ministers for establishing marine protection, including marine reserves. Each group used a process that was different in terms of its origin, purpose, scope, and expected outcomes. We examined how inclusive, transparent, and well informed the processes were to identify lessons that could be applied to support the establishment of other marine protection measures.

Managing the supply of and demand for drinking water

September 2018: We audited three district councils (Horowhenua District Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council, and Manawatu District Council) and one city council (Palmerston North City Council) to understand the challenges they face in supplying drinking water to their communities. We looked at what these four councils are doing to influence demand for drinking water and whether they are taking an integrated approach, using financial and non-financial methods.

Monitoring how water is used for irrigation

May 2018: This is our first of seven audits that will look at how public organisations manage water. For this audit, we looked at how freshwater used for irrigation is tracked and measured. This included looking at how well water meter installation was managed, the quality of data collected from water meters, how the data was used, and whether this was leading to positive changes in the way water is used. We focused on five regional councils and one unitary council from six different regions.

Managing freshwater quality: Challenges for regional councils

September 2011: We carried out an audit to provide an independent view of how effectively four selected regional councils are managing and controlling land use and related activities for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing freshwater quality in their regions...

Planning to meet the forecast demand for drinking water in Auckland

August 2011: A letter from the Auditor-General to the Chief Executives of Auckland Council and Watercare Services Limited on governance issues and a report on our initial findings and recommendations for Watercare to consider when developing its long-term plans for asset management and for funding arrangements...

Marine Fisheries Management

December 1990, ISBN 0 477 02818 7. Jointly prepared by the Controller and Auditor-General and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.