Hinds water plan to be made operative

Environment Canterbury announced today that Council had resolved to make the Hinds Plan Change, Plan Change 2 to the Land & Water Regional Plan, operative on 1 June 2018.

Councillor Peter Skelton said the Hinds/Hekeao Plains area is one of the most productive in Canterbury, but water resources are showing signs of stress, nitrogen levels are increasing, and water availability is decreasing.  

“Waterways dry out in summer and aquifer levels have dropped, affecting ecosystems and the reliability of domestic water supplies and irrigation,” Professor Skelton said.

“The community and the Ashburton Zone Committee have been at the forefront of finding ways to turn these trends around. The big challenges have been to find means of reducing nutrient discharges and increasing water in the system, while still maintaining a vibrant agricultural community and economy. Addressing over-allocation and meeting national environmental bottom lines have been key to this work.”

The Plan Change sets limits, targets, timeframes and additional policies and rules on water quantity and quality in the Hinds/Hekeao Plains area.  A schedule lists farm management practices relating to nutrient management, winter grazing of intensively farmed stock, cultivation and collected animal effluent. 

“All farmers in the area need to be implementing good management practices,” Professor Skelton said. “Nitrogen losses over 15 kilograms per hectare per year will require a land use consent. Land users may increase nitrogen losses up to 15 kilograms per hectare per year without requiring consent however.”

The proposed Plan Change was the subject of appeals to the High Court on points of law. These appeals have now been resolved. 

“Excellent progress has been made with our planning work in the last few years,” Peter Skelton concluded. “In partnership with the community, we are well on the way towards completing catchment-focused rules for the whole region.” 

More information on the Hinds Plan Change can be found here.

For information on good management practices, visit our website www.canterburywater.farm or primary industry organisations.

More information on the Land & Water Regional Plan, including new rules on nutrient management, can be found here

The Hinds / Hekeao Plains area 

The Hinds/ Hekeao Plains area consists of the Hinds River/ Hekeao catchment, and the plains between the Rangitata and Hakatere/Ashburton rivers.  The Upper Hinds/ Hekeao area includes the foothills and basins that drain into the north and south branches of the Hinds River/ Hekeao. The Lower Hinds/ Hekeao Plains area contains more than 30 spring-fed lowland waterbodies near the coast. Many of the waterbodies in the Lower Hinds/ Hekeao Plains area are the remnants of what was once an expansive wetland.

 Key features of the Plan Change 

  • Restrictions on further land use intensification until nitrate levels are at or below an average annual groundwater concentration of 6.9 milligrams per litre (the national bottom line).
  • Properties will still be able to develop under the Rangitata Diversion Race Management Ltd (RDR) and Barrhill-Chertsey (BCI) irrigation scheme discharge permits until their expiry. The plan change provides a pathway (through a resource consent) for the continuation of the RDR and BCI schemes, but there are limits on the amount of nitrogen leaching that is allowed.  
  • Good management practice is required for all farming activities. Land users are permitted to increase nitrogen losses up to 15 kilograms per hectare per year without requiring consent.
  • Properties exceeding 20 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare per year will be required to progressively reduce their discharge beyond good management practice levels by:
    • 15% by 2025
    • 25% by 2030
    • 36% by 2035
      - however, they will not be required to reduce nitrogen losses below 20 kilograms per hectare per year. 
  • Switching of surface water takes and hydraulically connected groundwater takes to deep groundwater is enabled. No overall increases in takes will be allowed and water surrendered must be left in the river.