Environment Canterbury announces braided river protection ramps up

Collaborative effort together with significant rule changes signal good news for Canterbury’s iconic braided rivers, Environment Canterbury said today.

Yesterday the Regional Council’s representatives met Fish & Game, Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and Federated Farmers.

Agreement was reached, with Forest & Bird input, that consistent management of all land in and on the margins of Canterbury’s braided rivers is required. A number of specific actions were to be progressed, with the next meeting of the group later in March.

Plan change 4 - strengthening rules

Today the Environment Canterbury Council resolved to make Plan Change 4 of the Land & Water Regional Plan (the “Omnibus” plan change) operative. Among other things, this plan change strengthens the rules regarding removal of vegetation from braided river beds and defines those beds to make it easier to understand how to comply with the stock exclusion rules.

Council Chair David Bedford said he was confident this multi-pronged strategy would deliver robust and comprehensive braided river management the community expects. “We acknowledge a number of legacy issues and now we need to move forward,” he said.

Bringing responsible agencies together 

“Bringing the responsible agencies together in this way ensures an aligned approach. A multi-agency group also involving territorial authorities, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Federated Farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries is already driving work on the ground and we can build on this for the future. Management plans are being considered for specific rivers like the Hurunui.

“Plan Change 4 also gives us a statutory framework to do better by our rivers,” Mr Bedford said. “When there is no resource consent in place, vegetation clearance and earthworks within the beds of braided rivers are prevented. When considering an application for resource consent, consenting authorities must prevent further encroachment of activities into the riverbed and margin.”

Defining braided river

Further, the edge of the bed of a braided river is defined for the purposes of the stock exclusion rules. “These changes make clear the extent of a braided river bed, and the areas adjacent to flowing water from which stock must be excluded,” Mr Bedford said.

“I applaud all the excellent collaborative work that is already being done on and around braided rivers by groups such as Braided River Aid (BRaid), the Upper Rangitata Gorge Landcare Group, Ashburton Forest & Bird and the Ashley-Rakahuri Group. However, there is much more we can do.

“We now have the tools and the collective will to better protect Canterbury’s unique braided rivers,” David Bedford concluded. “Alignment of our work programmes and fit for purpose rules, rigorously enforced, will ensure preservation and enhancement of our big rivers for future generations.”