High Court decision released on RMA definition of “river bed”

Canterbury Regional Council prosecuted Dewhirst Land Company Ltd and Mr Dewhirst for work undertaken in a river without the appropriate consents as well as diversion of water. Guilty pleas were entered, but Dewhirst disputed the facts and appealed.

The High Court decision in Dewhirst Land Company Ltd v Canterbury Regional Council on 14 December 2018 on that appeal by Dewhirst related to the interpretation of the extent of the river bed as defined by Section 2 of the Resource Management Act (RMA).

As such, the court decision relates to how much of the works were illegal and the scale of the environmental impact.

Environment Canterbury holds responsibility for managing and protecting the region’s riverbeds, in accordance with the high protection status they have under the RMA. Braided rivers in particular are internationally rare and a key part of their makeup is driven by their open channels and their ability to move over the landscape.

To protect our rivers, Environment Canterbury is engaged, with a wide variety of stakeholders, in a process to define riverbeds to provide clarity for landowners, and the wider community, about what is and what is not appropriate in Canterbury’s valued braided river environments. 

Environment Canterbury is prepared to prosecute land owners who undertake works in rivers and diversions of water without obtaining appropriate consents.

In relation to the court decision, we are currently considering our options.