NZ experiencing challenges to manage freshwater

11 November 2013

New Zealand is experiencing an array of challenges in its effort to efficiently manage its freshwater resources, a University of Canterbury PhD student says.

NZ experiencing challenges to manage freshwater

UC doctoral student Faiz Abdul Raheem.

New Zealand is experiencing an array of challenges in its effort to efficiently manage its freshwater resources, a University of Canterbury PhD student says. 

The Government has initiated a series of reforms to respond to the challenges. Faiz Abdul Raheem, who is a projects lawyer and an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, is doing his PhD thesis at UC on water law in New Zealand.

"The provisions of the existing legal framework seem to be limited and not flexible to accommodate reforms to achieve efficiency. A set of measures to overcome this issue is proposed by the Government including a number of amendments to the existing main legislation, the Resource Management Act (RMA),’’ he says.

"But there still exists a doubt whether the existing legal framework could transform comprehensively and provide the flexibility needed for the implementation of the required freshwater reforms even after the incorporation of these measures.

"The complexities arise out of the unique nature of water and the vital role it plays in achieving the economic, social, cultural and environmental goals of New Zealand and a deeper examination of these limitations is required.

"I seek to examine in my project the extent and nature of the limitations of the statutory provisions and the impacts of the `first in first served’ doctrine in the implementation of required freshwater reforms.

"I want to assess whether the existing legal framework for water under the provisions of the RMA are appropriate for addressing the challenges, given the fact that the RMA was enacted more than two decades ago when the constraints for water as a resource were minimal.

"The policy behind introducing this legislation was to provide a more liberal user regime for people by leaving economic, social and cultural outcomes of the use of any natural or physical resources in their hands while retaining in the hands of the government the power to regulate the adverse environmental effects of the use.

"These challenges may entail having a separate water legislation model that reflects the unique nature of water and the complexities arising from its competing multiple uses.

"It is desirable that such water legislation be a `framework legislation’ given the combined soft and hard law approach to addressing issues of national importance in New Zealand.

Rabdul Raheem says there are relevant examples of how similar issues have been addressed by water legislation in other jurisdictions; and there are underlying principles and mechanisms these legislative measures when modified to suit New Zealand and embodied in a framework legislation for water, may provide a coherent and comprehensive legal framework.

He will deliver a paper to the Postgraduate Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management conference, jointly-run by UC and Lincoln University, at UC tomorrow (November 12).

Abdul Raheem has a master’s degree in water law from the University of Dundee, in the UK, and is attached to the UC School of Law as a fulltime PhD student.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz

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