Freshwater planning process

Freshwater planning process

These pages provide an overview of the Freshwater Planning Process and the roles of the Chief Freshwater Commissioner and freshwater commissioners. 


The Freshwater Planning Process (FPP) must be followed by regional councils and unitary authorities when preparing, changing, or varying regional policy statements and regional plans (freshwater instruments) that give effect to any national policy statement for freshwater management, or otherwise relate to freshwater.

  • The process starts when the freshwater planning instrument is publicly notified and must be completed within two years.
  • Any interested people can make a submission expressing their views on the notified instrument.  
  • The Chief Freshwater Commissioner will convene a freshwater hearings panel to hear submissions.
  • The panel will report on the hearing and make recommendations to the Regional Council.
  • The Regional Council must decide whether to accept or reject each recommendation in the panel report. For each recommendation it rejects, the council must decide on an alternative solution and provide a further evaluation report.
  • The Regional Council will notify the public and those who made submissions of its decisions.
  • Appeal rights are restricted compared to the standard plan-making process.

More information

For more detail, see the Freshwater Planning Process factsheet here on the Ministry for the Environment website.

Technical guidance for councils can be found here.