River-based gravel extraction

Gravel lying naturally in riverbeds is a convenient source of aggregate for commercial or private use. Extracting it offers a cost-effective method of managing flooding and erosion hazards.


River Gravel Management Strategy review

Update: August 2023

We're reviewing our framework for managing river-based gravel extraction across Waitaha Canterbury. This process is complex given the change in the regulatory framework and community expectations for gravel management over the last decade. The comprehensive engagement process with partners and stakeholders to ensure the review produces a durable, fit for purpose approach is taking longer than initially anticipated.

Staff are working in partnership with ngā Papatipu Rūnanga and engaged in conversations about broader river-based gravel extraction issues. Collectively, we want to ensure our approach is durable and fit for purpose.  

In order to get it right we are exploring the connection between the GMS and the Regional Policy Statement (RPS) that Environment Canterbury is currently reviewing as part of the Integrated Planning Framework and an opportunity to align these workstreams to achieve the best outcome.

We are continuing engagement with our partners and stakeholder groups and will use all the feedback to inform this process.

Any further updates will be loaded to this page.

You’ll need permission to extract gravel either as a permitted activity or by obtaining a gravel authorisation or a resource consent – each of which are explained on this page.

Extractions are controlled by various rules in our regional plans depending on your intended activity and other activities that may be associated with the excavation, such as working in flowing water, using temporary culverts, temporarily diverting channels or discharging dust into the air.

Proposed changes to the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP)

Proposed changes to the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) have been notified, which means you must consider the proposed changes when determining if you can undertake works as a permitted activity, or if you need a resource consent.

How to read the plan changes

You can download Proposed Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury LWRP (PDF File, 3.91MB) and go to section 5.147-5.153 "Gravel for Lakes and River Beds".

If you’d like to know more, you can phone Customer Services on 0800 324 636 or email gravel@ecan.govt.nz.

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Extracting gravel - what you need to know

Everything you need to know about extracting gravel from riverbeds can be found in section 2.2 of the River Gravel Extraction Code of Practice (PDF File, 4.62MB) and under the drop-down menus below.

Gravel management strategy

Canterbury Regional River Gravel Management Strategy provides a framework for sustainable management of gravel extracted from rivers throughout Canterbury.

The strategy sets out the role of Environment Canterbury in managing gravel extraction from rivers, the outcomes we wish to achieve and the methods by which gravel extraction should occur.

Active management of gravel provides flood hazard protection that ensures community safety and wellbeing, while allowing for sustainable economic development without compromising cultural, social and environmental outcomes and values.

Permission and costs to extract river-based gravel

There are several options available for authorising the extraction of gravel from river beds.

  • Small volumes of gravel may be extracted as a permitted activity under our regional plans.
  • A gravel authorisation may be obtained to extract gravel on behalf of Environment Canterbury for up to 60,000m³ for 12 months (30,000m³ in South Canterbury).
  • A gravel permit may be issued to extract gravel under the resource consents we hold.
  • Obtain a resource consent.

Work out which option suits your needs and how much it will cost using the following table.

Please note that gravel charges are based on the volume of gravel authorised to be extracted, even if you end up taking none. However, you can apply to have your resource consent varied to change the volume of material allocated to a particular resource consent.

This means your overall gravel charge will be reduced but any charges based on the original consented volume paid prior to the change of conditions will not be refunded.

August 2021
Permitted activity Gravel authorisation Resource consent
Volume 5m³/yr - 50 m³/yr
River dependent – contact us for your site.
South Canterbury: 30,000m³ max
Central/North: 60,000m³ max.

Any volume.

Note: our river engineers advocate for the same maximum volumes as gravel authorisations.

Duration No restriction 12 months maximum.

Up to 35 years.

Note: long durations are unlikely, our river engineers advocate for a max. duration of 12 months.

Costs No charge,
Although not compulsory a Certificate of Compliance can be sought for $1,300
1,500m³ or less: $345
Greater than 1,500m³: $862.50 (includes GST).

Application fixed deposit:

<20,000 m³ per annum $2,500
20,000-100,000 m³ per annum $3,600
>100,000 m³ per annum $4,700

Gravel management fee Nil $0.11/m³ $0.11/m³
Monitoring charges Nil $166.50 per hour for monitoring
$105.00 per hour for administration (includes GST)
$166.50 per hour for monitoring
$105.00 per hour for administration
(includes GST)

Permitted activities explained

Rule 5.148 of the Land and Water Regional Plan applies to all rivers in Canterbury, with the exception of the Waimakariri River and some of its tributaries.

The rule governing small scale gravel extraction in these areas is rule 7.1 of the Waimakariri River Regional Plan. In Rule 5.148 of the Land and Water Regional Plan the volume of permitted gravel extraction ranges from 5m³ a year to 20m³ a year, depending on the river.

Under the Waimakariri River Regional Plan, the volume of permitted gravel extraction ranges from 10m³ a week to 50m³ a year.

In addition to the volume conditions, there are other requirements to meet before the extraction is permitted. Email gravel@ecan.govt.nz or contact us to find out more.

Gravel authorisations explained

Obtaining a gravel authorisation will allow you to operate as a permitted activity. Under rule 5.149 of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, you can extract gravel on our behalf for the purpose of flooding and erosion hazard management.

To ensure that the objectives of the Gravel Management Strategy are met, any Gravel Authorisation applications we accept must fit the following criteria:

  1. The extraction of gravel is located within a river rating district (the management of gravel is one of our tools for flood and erosion management); or
  2. The extraction will alleviate an existing flooding or erosion problem (outside of river rating districts).

These authorisations can be granted for a maximum volume of 60,000m³ and a maximum duration of 12 months. In South Canterbury, the maximum volume is limited to 30,000m³, in accordance with the South Canterbury Gravel Agreement. Authorisations are issued in areas where there is excess gravel that needs to be removed for hazard management purposes. Rule 5.139 of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan prevents gravel extraction in water bodies listed as a salmon spawning site or a high naturalness water body or in indigenous freshwater species habitat or in īnanga spawning sites during the spawning season. Authorisations are not available in the Waimakariri River and its tributaries above Woodstock, as gravel extraction here is governed by the Waimakariri River Regional Plan and separate rules apply.

Please fill in the online availability form to enquire about proposed locations.

Gravel authorisations will have standard rules specified in the River Gravel Extraction Code of Practice (PDF File, 4.6 MB); however, variations to these standard conditions may be requested on your gravel authorisation application form (PDF File, 173 KB)

Sites where we cannot issue authorisations

  • Clarence River and its tributaries
  • Waimakariri River and its tributaries (above Woodstock) including:
    • Kowai River
    • Bealey River
    • Cass River
  • Orari River: Mouth to Factory Rd bridge
  • Opihi River: Temuka River Confluence to SH79 Bridge in Fairlie
  • Temuka River: Opihi River confluence to Oxford Crossing Rd
  • Waihi River: Oxford Crossing Rd to Beeby Rd
  • Tengawai River: Opihi Confluence to Albury
  • Waitaki River: SH1 Bridge to Dam
  • Hakataramea River
  • Any salmon spawning site, inanga spawning habitat, or Critical Habitat. Schedule 17 (page 213 of Plan Change 7) listing salmon spawning sites, and referenced in Condition 9 of Rule 5.148 (page 43 of Plan Change 7), has been updated to include new rivers and streams.

Health and safety and public liability insurance

If you use a gravel authorisation on our behalf we require you to provide extra information with your application to satisfy us that you will be safe and have adequate financial protection in case the unexpected happens.

  • You must provide evidence of public liability insurance to the value of at least $500,000.
  • You must provide site specific health and safety plans for each site. Use our template or one of your own. Contact us if you need assistance completing the plan.

Advice for your application

Before you lodge an application read our consents pages thoroughly. Gravel-specific tips include:

  • What volume of gravel is required?
  • Is it for on-going works over a period of several months or years?
  • Is it a one-off take for a particular job?
  • How soon do you need the gravel? Depending on the number of applications in process, there could be a delay.
  • Is the cost involved in obtaining a gravel authorisation or resource consent justified and have you considered any ongoing costs like compliance monitoring? It may be cheaper to source gravel from a local supplier.
  • Please note if your application is to ‘disturb the bed’ primarily for river control purposes it receives a different classification and may not be subject to gravel charges. Contact us with any questions. 

Additionally, we have detailed information on gravel availability in some, but not all, rivers throughout the region. It may be that the river or area you want to extract from is not subject to regular surveys to determine available volumes, but we may still hold information pertaining to that particular site. For rivers in which we hold detailed information, we try to maintain a target ‘mean bed level’ over time to ensure the region’s flood protection schemes and other infrastructure are not put at risk. The following graph shows how we define the mean bed level of a river. If not enough gravel is extracted from a river bed, the flood carrying capacity of the waterway can be reduced; if too much gravel is extracted, an increased erosion risk can develop.

Mean bed level can be computed from berm to berm, or from stopbank to stopbank (JPG file, 154KB).

Extracting gravel using consents held by us

We hold resource consents for gravel extraction in areas where there is an excess of gravel which needs to be removed for flood mitigation purposes.

It is possible to obtain permits to work under our resource consents. Contact us for further information.

Further, it is a permitted activity for us to extract gravel for flood protection purposes and in many cases we are able to allow contractors to work on our behalf with a special permission called a gravel authorisation application form (PDF File, 173 KB).

South Canterbury gravel agreement

In South Canterbury (Rangitata River and south), Environment Canterbury and members of the gravel extraction industry have signed the South Canterbury gravel agreement.

This limits consents and authorisations to a maximum volume of 30,000 cubic metres and duration of 12 months enabling better flood management in rivers and creating a level playing field for signatories.

To ensure the success of the agreement, we require that any new gravel extractors to become signatories prior to applying for a consent or authorisation.

Contact us for more information.

Gravel Liaison Committee contacts

The Gravel Liaison Committee is an advisory organisation set up to facilitate and communicate information relating to river-based gravel extraction. The committee is divided across four regions.

Gravel Extraction Industry Representatives

Northern Management Area
Richard Edgen (North Canterbury Quarries Ltd)

Waimakariri/Ashley Management Area
Brett Swain (Southern Screenworks Ltd)
027 435 3979

Central Management Area
David Rowlands (Ashburton Contracting Ltd)
03 308 4039
027 484 1114

Southern Management Area
George Kelcher (Road Metals Ltd)
03 437 0458
021 350 880

Download the latest Gravel Liaison Committee meeting minutes (PDF File, 866KB)

Can I get an exemption from the gravel charge?

Yes, but only if it is a small quantity as permitted under the relevant regional plan.

There are no other exemptions from gravel charges for gravel taken under a resource consent or gravel authorisation.

However, a resource consent issued for the maintenance of waterway capacity in the immediate vicinity of culverts and other similar structures, where the gravel is not removed from the river bed, will be considered on an individual basis.

Can I surrender my gravel take consent if I no longer require it?

If you no longer require the consent, it can be surrendered or transferred to another user.

These forms can be found under 'general process forms' in resource consent application forms.