DOC and regional councils are responsible for managing fish passage in our waterways.

DOC and regional councils are responsible for managing fish passage in our waterways under the Freshwater Fisheries Regulations 1983 and the Resource Management Act 1991. Other statutory requirements may need consideration for instream structures.

DOC has responsibility for enforcing the Freshwater Fisheries Regulations, so any culverts, fords, dams and diversion structures in a natural river, stream or water may need approval from DOC. This includes exemptions for fords or culverts that impede fish passage, approval of any structural change to fish facilities, and assessing whether proposed dams and diversion structures require a fish facility.

(A fish facility is any structure or device, such as a fish pass or fish screen that is inserted in or by any waterway, to stop, allow or control the passage of fish through, around, or past any instream structure.)

Regional councils are responsible for controlling the environmental effects of construction under the Resource Management Act 1991 including enforcing the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020.

The National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 introduced minimum fish passage design standards for consents as well as setting rules for the construction of culverts, weirs, fords, and dams to meet the requirements for fish passage set out in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020.

To support the new requirements, the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has endorsed the Fish Passage Assessment Tool and is encouraging its use to maintain records, assess structures, and develop rehabilitation strategies to fix them.

The NPS-FM requires that:

“The passage of fish is maintained, or is improved, by instream structures, except where it is desirable to prevent the passage of some fish species in order to protect desired fish species, their life stages, or their habitats.”

Rules in councils’ regional plans include providing fish passage and protecting places that provide important habitat for native species. Other statutory requirements apply in some cases and should be considered when designing and managing physical structures.

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