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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 

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 waterManaging the supply of and demand for drinking water
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 how water is used for 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* This audit has been superceded by developments following on from the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry.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 about water

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

Managing stormwater systems to reduce the risk of flooding
December 2018: We looked at how Dunedin City Council, Porirua City Council, and Thames-Coromandel District Council manage their stormwater systems to protect people and their property from the effects of flooding.
Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari: Creating a marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf
December 2018: Protecting and conserving marine ecosystems while balancing competing interest groups in the Hauraki Gulf is challenging. We looked at a project aiming to create New Zealand's first marine spatial plan, which would create a healthy, productive, and sustainable future for the Gulf...
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.
Introducing our work programme - Water management
October 2017: New Zealanders rely on water for our health, our economy, and our lifestyle. For Māori, water is an important spiritual and cultural resource that is regarded as a taonga...
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...
Part 11: Planning to meet the forecast demand for drinking water
Local government: Results of the 2008/09 audits.
Local authorities: Planning to meet the forecast demand for drinking water
February 2010: We carried out a performance audit of eight local authorities to help us form a view about how well prepared the country is to meet the likely future demand for drinking water...
Horizons and Otago Regional Councils: Management of freshwater resources
May 2005: This report looks at how the Resource Management Act 1991 framework has been implemented by the Horizons Regional Council and the Otago Regional Council for the management of freshwater in their regions...
Thames Coromandel District Council: Actions relating to a Sewerage Scheme for Cooks Beach and Ferry Landing
June 2001: We believe that other local authorities will find the discussion of the issues dealt with in this report helpful when faced with making similar decisions...
Management of sewage treatment systems
May 1992, ISBN 0 477 02831 4.
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.
Ministry of Works and Development: Irrigation schemes
April 1987, ISBN 0 477 02801 2.
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