Freshwater Regulation - whats happening in 2018

Water Quality:

In 2014, after a lengthy environment court mediation "plan change 6A" that dealt primarily with sediment and nutrient discharges took effect.  6A was intended to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management which amongst many things requires councils to put in place plans that firstly allow no degradation, and secondly require improvement of degraded water bodies to a healthy state over time.  To do this ORC set up a framework that identified water bodies and categorized them into 5 groups, with different water quality limits or targets set for each group, reflecting the values of the water bodies and the intended outcome for each water body.  Depending on whether a particular water body is in a healthy or degraded state, the plan requires either that limits be met and maintained immediately (for healthy water bodies), or that the target be met by 2025 (for degraded water bodies).  Relevant to our district for example:

  • The Clutha below Luggate, Kawarau below Shotover, Mill Creek is not currently meeting requisite target for nitrarte-nitrite nitrogen
  • The Clutha below Luggate is not meeting the requisity turbity, so targets are set for 2025.
  • Lake Hayes and Lake Wakatipu  do not meet the target for total phosperous – target set for 2025The rules that were the focus of 6A related primarily to primary industry activities. 

The rules on discharge of human sewage and hazardous substances was not updated as part of the plan change 6A.

For nutrient discharge and sediment runoff associated with primary industry, the new framework sets standards that must be met for each property, for its discharges to be permitted and not need a resource consent.  These rules impacting existing farming activities, and over time are designed to require changes in the extent to which farming activities discharge contaminants to water either directly, or through the land.


Regional Policy Statement

The new and improved regional policy statement, which will then drive further changes to the regional plan on water (and district plans on other matters) is in the process of being finalized through mediation in the environment court.  However mediation is confidential and without prejudice until it is completed.  The good news is though that updated, directive, regional direction including in respect of water bodies is close, that at a regulatory level will drive further changes.


Arrow River catchment and Wakatipu Basin Aquifer

ORC has been doing consultation of what flows, allocation limits and water levels should be set for these catchments.  Soon ORC will formally notify a plan change with the proposed plan provisions including rules. This will go through the submissions, hearings and possibly appeals process before it becomes operative. The rules will have immediate legal effect as soon as they are notified.


Cardrona River and Wanaka Basic Cardrona Gravel Aquifer

Another round of consultation on the minimum flow and allocation for the Cardrona River and aquifers is anticipated in autumn this year. After that, like the Arrow, ORC will formally notify a set of rules proposing minimum flows and levels and allocation limits, for submissions hearings and appeals/.


Residual flows

Minimum flows are not all that is needed to keep a river flow healthy, as the minimum flow is only measured at specific points, and set a bottom line. Sometimes it is necessary to impose a residual flow as well at each point of take.  ORC have noted that the plan while requiring an assessment for resource consents on whether a residual flow is required, is not really clear enough about what is trying to be achieved.  ORC has consulted, and according to the website are in the process of preparing plan change options for a further round of consultation "early 2018".

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