River reclamation is the man-made formation of permanently dry land by putting material into or onto any part of a river. It is not a permitted activity and resource consent is required.
Streams and rivers provide important habitat for plants, invertebrates, fish and wildlife. They also provide many other ecological, cultural, recreational and economic values.
Once river habitats are lost, the damage is often irreparable or difficult and expensive to reverse. Over time, the cumulative effects of river loss, through activities such as piping streams and reclamation, can lead to a decline in species, ecosystem health and cultural values.
What is considered river reclamation?
River reclamation includes the construction of any causeway, but does not include the construction of natural hazard protection structures such as seawalls, breakwaters or groynes, except where the purpose of those structures is to form dry land.
The following are activities that may be considered river reclamation:
- The realignment of part of a small stream that involves "filling in" the natural stream bed with soil to create permanent dry land.
- The construction of flood protection near a river for the purpose of creating productive dry land.
- Works associated with installing a bridge over a river.
The Resource Management Act defines a rivers as "a continually or intermittently flowing body of fresh water; and includes a stream and modified watercourse; but does not include any artificial watercourse".
However, the definition of what is considered part of a river can be tricky in the case of our braided rivers. We have produced a brief guide to how we apply the RMA and LWRP (PDF File, 274KB) to determine when resource consent is required in and adjacent to braided rivers.
If you are considering doing reclamation works and are unsure whether a waterbody on your property is considered a river, please contact our Customer Advisory Team on 0800 324 636.
Resource consent for river reclamation
Resource consent is required for the reclamation of any part of a river.
When considering an application for reclamation, consent planners must consider the provisions of the NPSFM 2020 and Environment Canterbury’s plans. These documents include strong policies to avoid the loss of river extent and values unless there is a functional need for an activity to occur.
The need to avoid environmental damage is a very strict requirement. As reclamation results in the formation of dry land from riverbed, it is highly unlikely that this can be undertaken without a loss of current extent and values.
When planning an activity in or around riverbeds that may result in reclamation, it is therefore important to consider whether there is actually a functional need for the activity. A functional need means that the activity can only happen in that particular place. If this cannot be demonstrated, your application may need to be notified, or may be refused.
If you are considering undertaking an activity that may involve river reclamation, please contact our Customer Services Team on 0800 324 636. They can arrange for you to have a free pre-application meeting with a Consent Planner to discuss your proposed activity and the next steps.
Essential Freshwater package and Canterbury rules
How are rivers defined in the NPS-FM, the Stock Exclusion Regulations 2020, and the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (LWRP)?
The LWRP defines a river in the same way as the Resource Management Act (RMA):
A continually or intermittently flowing body of fresh water; and includes a stream and modified watercourse; but does not include any artificial watercourse (including an irrigation canal, water supply race, canal for the supply of water for electricity power generation, and farm drainage canal).
The NPS-FM does not define a river.
However, the Stock Exclusion Regulations refer to “wide rivers” and define them as:
A river (as defined in the Act) with a bed that is wider than one metre anywhere in a land parcel.
Do the rules in the LWRP still apply to rivers and lakes?
Yes. An activity affecting rivers or lakes must comply with the LWRP rules as well as the requirements of the Essential Freshwater package.
What is the Essential Freshwater package seeking to achieve for rivers?
The Essential Freshwater package aims to avoid any further loss or degradation of riverbed habitat and values by ensuring that:
- Activities that may result in these losses are avoided if at all possible; but
- Where there is a functional need for an activity to occur, there is an “Effects Management Hierarchy” that must be followed. This should be addressed as part of any application for resource consent that may affect river values.
The Effects Management Hierarchy, in relation to natural inland wetlands and rivers, is an approach to managing the adverse effects of an activity on the extent or values of a wetland or river (including cumulative effects and loss of potential value). It requires that:
a) adverse effects are avoided where practicable; and
b) where adverse effects cannot be avoided, they are minimised where practicable; and
c) where adverse effects cannot be minimised, they are remedied where practicable; and
d) where more than minor residual adverse effects cannot be avoided, minimised or remedied, aquatic offsetting is provided where possible; and
e) if aquatic offsetting of more than minor residual adverse effects is not possible, aquatic compensation is provided; and
f) if aquatic compensation is not appropriate, the activity itself is avoided.
What are aquatic offsetting and aquatic compensation?
These are defined as follows:
Aquatic compensation means a conservation outcome resulting from actions that are intended to compensate for any more than minor residual adverse effects on a wetland or river after all appropriate avoidance, minimisation, remediation, and aquatic offset measures have been sequentially applied.
Aquatic offset means a measurable conservation outcome resulting from actions that are intended to:
a) redress any more than minor residual adverse effects on a wetland or river after all appropriate avoidance, minimisation, and remediation, measures have been sequentially applied; and
b) achieve no net loss, and preferably a net gain, in the extent and values of the wetland or river, where:
i) no net loss means that the measurable positive effects of actions match any loss of extent or values over space and time, taking into account the type and location of the wetland or river; and
ii) net gain means that the measurable positive effects of actions exceed the point of no net loss.