River margin encroachment

Environment Canterbury explains its approach to river margin encroachment.

Does Environment Canterbury allow landowners to encroach upon land it manages (such as river protection reserves?) If so, why?

No. As one of many land managers on river margins, Environment Canterbury manages a number of river reserves, mainly on behalf of river rating districts. We manage this land in a way that balances a number of values, including environmental value. As regulators under the Resource Management Act, Environment Canterbury takes unconsented development very seriously and development of river margins is controlled through our plans. The Department of Conservation, territorial authorities and Land Information New Zealand also manage land on river margins.

How has Environment Canterbury sought to protect the riparian margins of these rivers from the impacts of encroachment?

We work with landowners to protect and maintain riparian margins. We also manage riparian margins through specific provisions in the Land and Water Regional Plan, relating to vegetation clearance, stock exclusion and earthworks. We also work with other managers of land margins, such as the Department of Conservation, territorial authorities and Land Information New Zealand.

Where is the land located that is currently being leased to farmers for grazing farm animals?

These leases and licences are located throughout the Canterbury region from Kaikōura in the north to the Waitaki River in the south. The land is mainly river protection reserve land associated with the main Canterbury Rivers. Most of the land is related to the Waimakariri and lower Rakaia Rivers. All leases include requirements to comply with current legislation and our planning rules.

Why does Environment Canterbury lease land to farmers?

Environment Canterbury owns large areas of land adjacent to rivers. Most of this is involved with flood protection for both urban and rural areas. We lease this land to farmers and other industry and use the revenue received to fund flood protection.

The Waimakariri flood protection scheme that protects Christchurch is a significant example. We have 355 leases with farmers that have been put in place over several decades and the terms of those leases reflect the predominant values of the day. Leasing a piece of what we now view as river bed to a farm for grazing and even intensification was seen as an effective way of controlling weeds that would otherwise have spread on to farm land and taken over the river bed, affecting river flows in times of flood.

  Total Leases Dairy Leases Other farm leases Recreational (Orana Park etc)  Other businesses
Total Hectares 11,876 5,509 5,307 852 208
Total number 355 67 182 41 65