New monitoring sites give clearer view of Hakatere/Ashburton River

Water users have access to a fuller, more accurate picture of the Hakatere/Ashburton River and tributary flows thanks to an increase in the number of monitoring stations in the catchment.

Over the past few months, we've installed new monitoring sites on the North Branch, Taylor’s Stream, O’Shea Creek, and Mt Harding Creek. A monitoring site on Lagmhor Creek has also been moved to get more accurate data.

Data is publicly available on our river flow data page.

The additional monitoring sites will provide accurate and up-to-date information on when consent holders can take water under new minimum flow conditions, which come into force on 1 July 2023.

By this time, three irrigation seasons of data will be available, which, together with future measurement, can inform future planning processes.

Increasing flows in the Hakatere/Ashburton River

a water monitoring station

Monitoring stations along the Hakatere/Ashburton River provide real-time water flow data.

In July 2019, we initiated reviews of 88 resource consents to take water in the Hakatere/Ashburton River catchment – a combination of direct surface water takes from the river and its tributaries, as well as groundwater takes that are hydraulically connected to a surface waterway.

The goal of these reviews is to add new minimum flow conditions required by the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, which will improve river flows.

In addition to the flow monitoring sites, a water level and quality site has been installed in the hāpua (coastal lagoon), near the Hakatere Huts on the north bank of the rivermouth.

This site measures water level, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and temperature, providing a picture of ecosystem health in a biodiversity and recreation hotspot.

Half of reviewed consents now granted

As of October 2020, 44 consent reviews have been granted, including a water permit held by Rangitata Diversion Race Management Limited to take water from the South Branch of the Hakatere/Ashburton River.

The reviewed consents will continue to operate under their existing consent conditions until 1 July 2023, at which time the new minimum flow conditions will apply.

Two consents are no longer being reviewed, and the remaining 42 are on hold at the request of consent holders.

Regional Planning Manager Andrew Parrish says he’s happy with the progress made towards meeting the minimum flow target.

“We have held a number of drop-in sessions in which our planners and scientists have assisted affected consent holders,” he said.

“The review process is complicated and we want to make sure that consent holders are able to make well informed choices about how to proceed.

“We know what we’re asking of them isn’t easy and may in some cases significantly restrict their access to water, but we are confident these reviews are necessary to improve the long-term health of the Hakatere and the ecosystem it supports.”

What is the consent review process and why is it necessary?

In the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, which took effect from 2012, a minimum flow of six cubic metres per second (6,000 litres per second) was set for the Hakatere/Ashburton River at the State Highway 1 bridge, with other minimum flows set for tributary catchments.

Current consents have expiry dates stretching out to beyond 2030, and more than half have no minimum flow condition.

Modelling showed that environmental benefits would only be seen if all consents to take water connected to the catchment were subjected to the same minimum flow at the same time.

To achieve this, we are conducting a consent review. Find out more about the Ashburton Consent Review process.