Down with the drain : looking after our urban runoff and waterways in the era of sustainable management : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University
Recent reforms of environmental and local government legislation have radically changed the nature of environmental management in New Zealand. There is a new mandate for the "sustainable management" of natural and physical resources. This thesis examines how environmental considerations are currently being incorporated into the management of urban runoff and waterways in New Zealand. Three case studies of urban councils were conducted. Two main data collection methods were employed. Interviews were conducted with the relevant council staff and this information was supplemented by an analysis of regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans that employed a method of plan coding. This sought to establish what policies and programmes the councils were involved in, whether this was different from the late 1980s, and the extent to which they were carrying out various types of innovative solutions to environmental problems. The research findings suggest that councils vary considerably in their approach to urban runoff and waterways. It showed that urban streams in New Zealand have suffered levels of degradation including pollution and channel modification that are consistent with many urban areas overseas. Recently, elements of a new philosophy have been applied to their management, which has coincided with the introduction of the Resource Management Act (RMA). Following overseas trends, there has been a recognition by managers of our waterways and stormwater systems that former practices in managing urban runoff have neglected environmental issues and natural resource conservation. This research suggests that stormwater management practices are taking on board the considerations of water quality, quantity and biodiversity to a greater extent than that which happened in the past. The extent to which this is happening in any particular area depends on the scale of the issues, the sensitivity and utility of affected resources, and the level of commitment by both community and council to changing traditional practices.