Regional Forum

Playing a part in Southland's future

The Regional Forum is a community based group that will advise Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members on how we can achieve the communities’ aspirations for freshwater. Members of the forum will consider the specific policies and rules as well as the on-ground initiatives required to make change and improve Southland’s water and land for generations to come.

In this important role, members will play a key part in shaping how Southland’s water resources are managed now and in the future.

Hear from the chair of the Regional Forum

Fiona Smith has been elected chair of the Regional Forum. She'll work alongside deputy chair Phil Morrison.

Check out this introductory video of Fiona.

She's also answered a few other questions so check out these short clips to find out a bit more about Fiona.

1. Why did you put your name forward to join the Regional Forum?

2. What skills and experience do you bring to the table, generally and in the role of chair?

3. What has struck you about the process so far?

4. What are you most looking forward to in this process?

5. How do you want people to get involved in what you’re doing as a forum?

After each workshop it is our intention to share an overview of what the forum has been working on.

Workshop Four - 25 & 26 July 2019

The Regional Forum has now completed Phase One of their work programme with the fourth workshop held in Invercargill on Thursday and Friday last week.

It was a successful workshop where they heard more from a range of sectors, including volunteer groups like Rotary, Wise Society and the New River Estuary Forum, the Invercargill City Council assets and wastewater treatment staff, Public Health South, Great South and local iwi. They also improved their knowledge of estuaries, Matauranga Maori, and the physiographics of Southland. They also continued to build on their knowledge of the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management – understanding more about the context within which they will make their recommendations.

Many thanks to those of you who attended – it was much appreciated by the Regional Forum members and members of the public.

You can see the highlight video of the workshop here.

The forum have the following key messages:

  • We’re really excited to have completed the first phase of our Regional Forum journey. The first four workshops were designed to bring us together, get to know each other and help build up our understanding of the region.
  • We have been building a good, strong foundation and we are ready for Phase Two. We’re looking forward to continuing to engage with you - our communities, learning more about the values for freshwater that have been gathered over the last few months, and getting into the discussion around objectives.
  • The diverse range of speakers we’ve heard from over the last few months have enlightened, challenged and informed our different perspectives. We have been both heartened and alarmed at times, and we are aware of the urgency needed to support our community to ensure Southland’s environment is sustainable for our future generations.
  • We were pleased to announce Fiona Smith and Phil Morrison as chair and deputy chair of the Regional Forum.
  • Thank you to those that could come along to the public session, and a special thank you to all the speakers who have taken the time to come along to work with us in phase one of our journey.
  • Our workshops through Phase Two will continue to include a public session, and we hope you will come along and talk with us. The next round of public sessions will focus more on Regional Forum members hearing more from you, understanding your concerns and challenges.

Workshop Three - 20 & 21 June 2019

The third workshop was held in Te Anau, where forum members continued to build their knowledge of the Southland environment and the policy space they are working in. They also got a chance to hear from a number of groups and agencies including the Department of Conservation, Real Journeys, Destination Fiordland, Guardians of the Lake and the Southland District Council. The forum members heard from Dean Whaanga, Te Ao Marama, who explained Te Mana o te Wai and what it means to iwi and how the forum need to consider it as part of their role. Along with representatives from DairyNZ and the NZ Deer Farmers Association, visits to a local deer farm and a dairy grazing operation allowed the forum members to see some of the challenges faced by farmers over winter, how they are adopting good management practices in a practical setting and the additional steps they are taking to improve their farm and the environment.

Check out the short highlights video from the workshop.

View all the papers for this workshop here.

The key takeout messages from the group were:

  • We have just about completed the first phase of our journey – getting to know each other and learning/sharing knowledge. At our next meeting in Invercargill we will announce the chair of our group and begin looking ahead to our work understanding the community’s values and objectives for freshwater.
  • We’ve heard from many different groups and agencies, and we loved hearing from the locals in Te Anau and learning their stories.
  • We recognise that we need to have an integrated perspective across the system – from mountains to the sea (ki uta ki tai). To date we have focused on the top of the catchments, and we’re looking forward to learning more about our estuaries.
  • There is a great depth of knowledge at this table. We know that, moving forward, we need to be prepared to listen and be open to all ideas.
  • The different industries and sectors we’ve learned from so far have all gone through change, and with the changes coming from the government, we expect continued change for us in our role on the forum, and for our communities.
  • Every industry in Southland has issues with water quality. We are seeing and want to see more ownership of the issues to water quality issues.
  • We appreciate the time people are taking to come and talk to us to share their knowledge, and to those that have welcomed us onto their farms and businesses. We have learned a lot which has put us in good stead for the work we have ahead of us.

Workshop Two - 9 & 10 May 2019

During the second workshop in Gore, forum members had an opportunity to meet with members of the Environment Southland monitoring team and see how they carry out water quality and quantity monitoring at the Mataura River at Gore’s monitoring site. On day two, the forum members visited farms in the Knapdale and Wyndham areas and met with local runaka representatives on the banks of the Mataura River at Mataura to learn more about the mātaitai and the history of the area. A public session was also held, where Wyndham angler Alan Leitch and Environment Southland councillor Maurice Rodway presented on the history of the Mataura Conservation Order. Doyle Richardson from Alliance spoke about their business and the environmental challenges they face looking to the future.

Check out the short highlights video from the workshop.

View all the papers for this workshop here.

The key takeout messages from the group were:

  • Technology and innovation continues to drive change We developed a timeline of key historical events that shaped Southland’s economy, communities and environment. We recognise that technology and innovation will play an important part in the changes to come in Southland’s future.
  • Concern about the impact we’ve all had on the environmentWe are concerned at the change that has occurred in our environment, and are keen to look to the future and help communities and industries understand and make improvements that benefit us all.
  • Coming to grips with the complexity We are starting to build a picture of the complexity of Southland’s environment through field trips, speakers and presentations. Southland’s landscape, geology, waterways and communities were covered, as well as the regulatory environment. This was done with a particular focus on the Mataura catchment.
  • Talking to people on the ground is importantWhile spending time understanding the theory is important, we all agreed that there’s nothing quite like seeing action ‘on-the-ground’, talking with industry reps, local community members and farmers really helped us to understand the challenging issues and complex decisions that need to be made.
  • There’s a high level of interest in what we’re doingThanks to everyone who came along to the public session on Friday during the workshop. Your interest in what we are doing and your contribution to the conversation is so important.

Workshop One - 4 & 5 April 2019

This first workshop focused on allowing the members to start to get to know one another; to start exploring their roles and responsibilities as well as the roles of Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama; to start developing a code of conduct and begin to explore the context of the work ahead, in particular change and decision making.

Check out this short highlights video from the first workshop.

View all the papers for this workshop here.

The key takeout messages from the group were:

  • We have started! The Forum members are excited to have started on the journey. They are looking forward to receiving the community’s values and objectives from the Share your Wai campaign.
  • Thanks to the Marae team and the Awarua Runanga who made us so welcome – We couldn’t think of a better place to start our journey. The group started their work by considering the context within which decisions on freshwater are made. Bluff was a great place to look out over the region, exploring the relationship of freshwater bodies within the physical landscape and the concept of ki uta ki tai, mountains to the sea. The group considered the role of time in decision making, exploring social, economic and other historical trends on freshwater uses, the interconnections and interdependencies between communities. Beginning their work within the beautiful Te Rau Aroha Marae enabled the group to explore different cultural frames within which decisions are made.
  • We have begun building a united group where our diversity of thinking and perspectives can be harnessed for a common purpose to achieve positive outcomes for the Southland community. The group recognised the diverse skills, experience and perspectives they brought to the table and agreed they share a genuine desire to learn from and understand each other.
  • We wish to thank the members of the public who contributed Lloyd Esler and Estelle Pera-Leask who led the field trips, sharing their historic knowledge and the work of the Motopuhue Trust, as well as the Environment Southland/ Te Ao Marama staff who worked together seamlessly as one team. We also want to thank all those that took the time to come to the public session and join us for a workshop exploring our ‘Vision for the future’.
  • We feel we are part of a wider whanau of Murihiku, working together for the good of the region and are looking forward to the challenge ahead!

Click here to find out more about each of the forum members.

What is the Regional Forum?

The Regional Forum is a panel of Southlanders, set up as part of the People, Water and Land Programme - Te Mana o te Tangata, te Wai, te Whenua. This programme is a partnership between Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama (the environmental arm of Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku).

The Regional Forum will advise Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members (Governance) on the methods to achieve the communities’ values and objectives for freshwater. It will consider the specific policies and rules as well as the on-ground initiatives required to make change. Those considerations must include the limits (e.g. water quality and quantity), targets, methods, impacts and policy context.

He aha te Rōpū ā-Takiwā?

He pae tāngata, te Rōpū ā-Takiwā nei, nō Te Taurapa katoa rātou, e whakatūria nei i raro i hōtaka - Te Mana o te Tangata, te Wai, te Whenua.

Ka noho tēnei rōpū hei āwhina i ngā mema o te kaunihera, Te Taiao Tonga me Te Ao Mārama mō ngā huarahi e tutuki ai ngā uaratanga me ngā whāinga mō te wai Māori. Ka āta whakatauria ngā kaupapa here me ngā ture tae atu ki ngā kaupapa mahi i te papa tonu, me whai wāhi mai kia puta ai he ahunga hou. I roto tonu i ngā whakataunga nei, me whai wāhi mai ngā taumata (hei tauira, te kounga me te nui o te wai), ngā whāinga, ngā pānga, ngā horopaki kaupapa here me ngā huarahi ka whāia.

What will they do?

Over the next few years, the forum will meet regularly to work through the aspirations, values and objectives the Southland community hold for our water and land. Click here to find out more about what the forum has been up to.

Workshops will initially be held monthly, and then every three months.

The forum will look to identify the regulatory and non‑regulatory methods to achieve the community’s values and objectives. Ultimately a plan change will be required and notified in order to meet the NPS-FM requirement of setting limits by 2025. The NPS-FM gives national direction for freshwater management, recognising it as a matter of national importance and that Te Mana o te Wai is integral.

For more information, email

Useful documents

Regional Forum - Factsheet
Regional Forum - Terms of Reference - December 2018

Background reports

Two background reports were used in the design of the Regional Forum:

August 2018 - Shaping Southland’s Regional Forum: drawing on lessons from elsewhere
September 2018 - The Regional Forum - Southland Context