Ashburton water consents review
Environment Canterbury is reviewing around 90 resource consents that take surface water or stream-depleting groundwater in the Hakatere/Ashburton River catchment.
This review is designed to implement the minimum flows which were developed with the community to protect the waterways’ values and to ensure there is a reliable source of water for the environment, community and consent holders.
Engaging with the community
At recent community meetings, attendees had the chance to find out more about the waterways in the catchment, how minimum flows are set and achieved, and what this means for river users.
Further meetings are being held to discuss issues surrounding water takes for affected consent holders.
Response to further questions from the Ashburton River Irrigators’ Association and consent holders
Members of the Ashburton River Irrigators’ Association (ARIA) presented us with a series of questions regarding surface and groundwater takes, river recharge and other issues. Below you can find a list of their questions/comments and our response, which has also been shared with the consent holders.
Environment Canterbury’s hydrological model used all available flow related data, flow records and available water use data to estimate the effects of the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) minimum flows.
Where flow records were not available for minimum flow sites, flow relationships were established using all available winter flow data to create natural flow relationships and estimate daily flows.
Tributaries to the North Branch of the Hakatere / Ashburton River, Mt Harding Creek and O’Shea Creek currently have very small minimum flows and are far less restrictive than the LWRP minimum flows. This is likely to result in higher flow contribution from the tributaries at times of low flow in the overall catchment under Plan minimum flow regime than under the current regime.
We consider this representative of the catchment characteristics and an approach fit for the purpose of assessing the relative change between current regime and the future regime under Plan minimum flows.
With specific regard to RDR spills please refer to the answer to Question 3.
After considerable Zone Committee and public input, the plan was publicly notified in 2012, followed by public submissions and a hearing process. The plan then became operative in 2016.
The majority of minimum flows are set to ensure the flow regimes support fish habitat (both native and trout/salmon), enable trout or salmon passage, protecting cultural values, and ensure that the river mouth remains open.
The main drivers for the minimum flows for O’Shea Creek, Mt Harding Creek and Lagmhor Creek were enough flows for fish passage and protecting cultural values.
The purpose of the modelling was to provide a water availability assessment to assist water users in the catchment when assessing the impact of the Plan minimum flows on their ability to take water.
There was no mandate nor the time to carry out a full reliability assessment to tie in to the economic effects for each individual consent holder.
The modelling was done in a way to be able to show the relative change between the effect of the current minimum flow regime and the effect of the Plan minimum flow regime.
Part of the reasoning behind the chosen approach was the ability of consent holders to relate the modelling results to what they have experienced, and how they coped over the modelled period (2010-2018).
One of the assumptions was that water users will want to use the water in the same way as they have done, so they could assess the likely impact of implementing the Plan minimum flows for themselves. That means that we did not include any potential changes to the way water is currently used in the catchment, for example; consent holders opting to change their takes to deep groundwater takes, efficiency gains, changes to ADC’s stockwater regime, forming of water user groups, land use changes. It also means that RDR spill was not removed from the flow record.
The relative change in the modelling results between the current minimum flow regime and the Plan minimum flow regime is expected to be minimal, if the RDR spill were to be removed from the flow record.
Removing spill would have to occur for both the current and Plan scenario. Therefore, the results would likely show more days in restriction under both regimes, resulting in a similar relative change, keeping in mind that any spill generally occurs for maintenance reasons, often for short periods of time and in the shoulder season when demand for irrigation is less.
The Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) is clear in setting out the intention to implement the minimum flows. There are no policies or rules that provide any exclusions to this requirement.
The LWRP requires that between 1 July 2023 and 30 June 2033, the taking of water will be subject to the State Highway 1 minimum flow in addition to the relevant tributary (North Branch) minimum flow as per Table 13(b). This is clearly set out in the LWRP policies which require the minimum flow provisions to be achieved.
The policies are implemented through the relevant rules. Resource consent can be sought to take water provided the relevant minimum flows are met. If they are not met, resource consent cannot be applied for as the taking of water would be a prohibited activity (under Rule 13.5.6).
The Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) provides for the temporary or permanent transfer of water.
Someone who requires additional water to fill their storage pond can therefore seek to transfer water from another resource consent for this purpose.
Any application to transfer water would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
It is important to note that, where a catchment allocation limit is exceeded, a reduction in the rate or volume of water taken may be required to assist with the phasing out of that exceedance.
The catchment allocation limit for the Hakatere / Ashburton River catchment is exceeded, so this would need to be addressed in any application to transfer water. Any reduction would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Alternatively, the LWRP provides for consent holders to apply for resource consent to establish a Water Users’ Group to share water.
A Water User Group could be established to share water during times of low flow or to share the rate or volume (allocation) of water; for example, when one consent holder does not have sufficient rate or volume and another consent holder is not using their entire rate or volume.
It should be noted that additional resource consents may be required for the construction of a storage pond.
It is possible to use surplus water that is authorised for use for irrigation to be used for MAR or augmentation, however a new consent or change of consent conditions must be sought to authorise the additional use.
Please refer to the answer to Question 8.
Changes to the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) would be required for the Ashburton River and tributaries to be used as conduits for scheme water.
The LWRP allows for a scheme to apply to for a resource consent to discharge scheme water into the catchment, but there would be difficulties for abstractors to get authorisation to take the water.
The LWRP, as currently drafted, makes it difficult to use the Ashburton River and tributaries as conduits for scheme water.
- Under the current LWRP provisions, the minimum flows apply to all consent holders. This means that if the SH1 flow remains below 6 cumecs abstractors could not take water irrespective of whether scheme water is being discharged “for them”.
- No new water takes can be authorised, as the plan prohibits new abstractions while the catchment is over-allocated and until the 2033 Ashburton River minimum flow (of 10 cumecs at SH1) is implemented through resource consents. Such an approach could only apply to existing consent holders and would not provide for increases to the rate of take.
- The LWRP provides for connected groundwater consents to take from unconnected groundwater but doesn’t allow for groundwater takes to switch to take water from surface water.
Different approaches could be taken to any plan change.
For example, a simple approach would be to insert a policy to provide for abstractors to apply for the scheme water that is being discharged.
Alternatively, a plan change could insert a separate allocation block for additional scheme water, with a policy and rule providing for people to apply to access this water, with the scheme’s approval.
A significant issue would likely be cultural concerns over the mixing of scheme water with Ashburton River water. This would need to be discussed with local Rūnanga.
In addition, hydrological studies would be required to determine how much water would be lost to the river system, as the same amount of water discharged may not be available to abstract further downstream.
The response to Question 9 provides further information about changing the LWRP.
The Ashburton Sub Regional Chapter of the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) is scheduled for review in 2022. This is not able to be brought forward, so a private plan change would have to be applied for to make any changes earlier than this.
Under the Resource Management Act (RMA), any person can request a change to an operative regional plan.
Parties could apply for a private plan change either prior to or in conjunction with resource consent applications.
Applying for a plan change and any required resource consents at the same time would have considerable time and resource efficiencies, however more information, and therefore investment, may be needed up front. If you have any further questions about this approach, please contact Customer Services.
Consent holders are welcome to conduct testing to further determine connection with the river.
Testing of this type would normally consist of a constant rate aquifer test over 3 to 7 continuous days with appropriate observation wells included. The level of effort required will be site specific.
It is recommended the test be conducted outside the irrigation season when test interferences will be minimised. The outcomes of the test can then be incorporated into a re-evaluation of stream depletion, and 7 days and 150 days effects assessment.
The Resource Management Act (RMA) guides what we can consider when making a decision on a resource consent review (refer to section 131 of the RMA). In summary, when considering a consent review the RMA requires the consent authority to “have regard to” a number of matters.
The following are the most relevant:
a) The actual and potential effects on the environment of allowing the activity;
b) Any relevant provisions of a national policy statement, regional policy statement or regional plan; and
c) Whether the activity allowed by the consent will continue to be viable after the change
In addition, the consent authority “may have regard to” the manner in which the consent that is being reviewed has been used.
You are able to provide information to be considered as part of the decision on your review, for example to demonstrate the impact that the review will have on your consented activity. This information could include:
- Information about your farm system; for example, the type of farm and how the reviewed consent forms part of your farm operation;
- Any additional consents to take and use water you have and whether they could be used to substitute the reviewed consent;
- What options you have evaluated for replacing the water provided by the reviewed consent (for example this may include but not be limited to storage or deep groundwater options) and what options are available, if any;
- Any relevant financial information, for example relating to the continued viability of the activity allowed by the reviewed consent.
At this stage, our staff are scoping which of the plan minimum flow sites are suitable for having water level recorder sites installed.
If we were to install a site at each of the plan sites this would require 6 new recorders. Each recorder costs approximately $12-15,000 to install and $6,000 for annual maintenance.
It is not possible to have a recorder on every minimum flow site in Canterbury, so we often use a method of finding a good relationship with another recorder and using that relationship to create a flow record.
This information is shown on the Irrigation Restrictions page to give a good ‘proxy’ of when rivers and streams are on and off restriction.
Whichever method we determine to be the best method for a particular site, we will cover the majority of the costs.
Each consent connected to a minimum flow site will have a minimum flow monitoring charge connected to their consent.
If a consent holder wishes to obtain water from another source for irrigation, any relevant resource consents would need to be obtained, as determined by the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP).
For example, while the LWRP provides an allocation for connected surface water or groundwater takes to move to deeper groundwater (greater than 40 m depth), a resource consent to take and use groundwater is still required.
Any consent application would need to determine the effects of the take on neighbouring bores, and any surface water or stream depleting groundwater consent must be surrendered before the deeper groundwater take is exercised.
The new take would be subject to an annual volume.
River modelling and stream depletion
This document outlines how we used hydrological modelling to estimate the impact that the consent review will have on consent holders’ ability to abstract water.
A desktop exercise has been undertaken to estimate potential stream depletion in the Canterbury Region.
Because of the lack of real, site specific testing, the Theis (1941) stream depletion solution model has been used as the calculation method of stream depletion rates.
This solution requires the least number of input parameters and is a good first estimate because of the conservative assumptions used in the model.
These assumptions will tend to overestimate depletion, however, a storativity value of 0.1 which is considered to be high (when compared to aquifer testing) has been used.
This value reduces the amount of water that the model will predict is coming from surface water (i.e. stream depletion).
The potential for the Theis model to overestimate stream depletion means that this model is a good initial method for determining which consents should be subject to minimum flows, and included in allocation blocks, however, a consequence of the conservative estimation of stream depletion is that the surface water allocation blocks may appear more utilised than will be the case in reality.
Field-testing (aquifer tests and stream conductance surveys) would refine the estimates of stream depletion, and this could result in lower estimates of stream depletion.
The Theis (1941) stream depletion solution has been used to estimate stream depletion rates over 7 and 150 day pumping periods.
The resulting depletion rate is then used to classify the hydraulic connection of the takes using Schedule 9 of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP).
Inputs for the stream depletion model were obtained from the Environment Canterbury wells database, Environment Canterbury consents database and Environment Canterbury GIS layers.
- The wells which have been modelled are linked to active abstraction consents to take and use groundwater.
- The Q7 (short term (7 day) pumping rate) and Q150 (long term (150 day) pumping rates were obtained from Environment Canterbury databases, and represent maximum pumping regimes for the granted consents.
- All wells screened less than 35 metres, were considered. Where no screen information was available a maximum well depth of 40 metres was used.
- Distance to the nearest river as shown by Environment Canterbury GIS layers; primarily the River Classification layer with adjustments made for River Zones and alpine river extents. No maximum distance from the river was applied.
- Aquifer parameters derived from aquifer tests or estimates of T derived from Winsorized mean specific capacity data within 2.5 km of the subject bore using Bal (1996) this has been constrained to a lower limit of 500 and an upper limit of 10,000 m2 day. T estimates where no specific capacity data or aquifer test data is present a T of 1500 m2/day has been adopted.
- Assumed storativity of 0.1
Bal, AA., 1996. Valley fills and coastal cliffs buried beneath an alluvial plain: evidence from variation of permeabilities in gravel aquifers, Canterbury Plains, New Zealand. Journal of Hydrology (NZ) 35 No. 1.Environment Canterbury, 2015. Canterbury Land And Water Regional Plan volume 1 December 2016.Theis, C.V., 1941. The effect of a Well on the Flow of a Nearby Stream. Transactions of the American Geophysics Union, Vol. 22, pp 734-738.
Supporting information for stream depletion chart including a key to help you understand the chart.
This information is designed to be read together to give you a better idea of how we have calculated stream depletion.
If you would like more information or want to contact staff about the Ashburton consent reviews, please email us at email@example.com.
WAP - Water abstraction point (your bore number)
T m²/d - Transmissivity (metres²/day)
S - Storativity
Q7 - The maximum rate which can be pumped over 7 days, or the average rate of daily or weekly volume (if applicable)
Q150 - The average rate of take required to pump the full annual volume over 150 days, or volume entered in the consents database where no consented annual volume.
SD - Stream depletion rate – this is the rate considered to be coming from the water body over 7 or 150 days.
% SD - The stream depletion effect over 7 or 150 days, recorded as a % of the pumping rate for the same timeframe.
Degree of connection - As per Schedule 9 LWRP
Points to note/Matters for you to explore
- You can use Version 3 of the stream deletion tools found at: https://ecan.govt.nz/your-region/your-environment/water/tools-and-resources/.
Use the Theis Jenkins sheet within this document.
Assumptions – irrigation efficiency (100%) and separation distance/L2 (0m).
- Estimation has been done at the recorded location of the WAP, not the consented location. You may wish to confirm that your bore is located at this location.
- Where the actual location differs to the location specified on your resource consent, you may wish to investigate updating your consent to the correct location.
- Schedule 9 of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan sets the methodology to determine the degree of connection a hydraulically connected groundwater abstraction may have.
- If you have carried out an aquifer test, you may be able to use these results to determine your degree of classification.
Find out more about the consent review
What is the scope of the resource consent review?
Resource consents to take water in the Hakatere/Ashburton River catchment will be reviewed to ensure they are consistent with the minimum flow, water metering and telemetry requirements set in the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP).
How many resource consents need to be reviewed?
There are about 90 resource consents that need to be reviewed to implement the LWRP minimum flow requirements. This includes consents to take and use surface water or groundwater that is hydraulically connected to the Hakatere/Ashburton River mainstem or tributaries. Of these, approximately half have no existing minimum flow condition.
Who pays for the resource consent review?
The cost will be met by Environment Canterbury, however, if a consent holder decides to engage a consultant to assist them with the process then they will have to pay for the consultant’s costs. There are Resource Management Regulations that address water metering.
Why is Environment Canterbury reviewing my consent to put new water metering conditions on it?
The Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations came into effect in 2010 to enable water users and regulators to easily determine compliance with water take consents and provide accurate water use information.
The Regulations apply to holders of resource consents which allow fresh water to be taken at a rate of 5 litres per second or more. While the Regulations apply directly to resource consent holders, Environment Canterbury has more stringent water metering requirements than set out in the Regulations. This means that these can only be applied to resource consents when they expire and are replaced, or if they are reviewed.
The LWRP (Policy 4.54) requires all resource consents with a minimum flow or trigger level that signifies a restriction on take, to include a condition requiring water use records to be telemetered to Environment Canterbury.
This means that for all resource consents with a minimum flow condition, regardless of the rate of take, water use records must be recorded and telemetered to the Canterbury Regional Council or its nominated agent to enable compliance with the minimum flow conditions.
Telemetry is an essential requirement for consent holders wishing to form a water user group, as it provides real-time data of who is taking and at what rate.
What information was considered in making the decision to review consents?
The following information was considered when making the decision to review the consents:
- Priority outcomes sought for the Hakatere/Ashburton River catchment developed by the Ashburton Water Zone Committee with the community
- The relevant provisions of the Land and Water Regional Plan, the Resource Management Act 1991 and Resource Management (Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes) Regulations 2010
- Technical advice regarding hydrology, including water availability
- Environmental benefits to the waterbodies
- Environment Canterbury’s Long-Term Plan (page 18)
- The impact on consent holders.
The resource consent review will mean that I have new conditions on my resource consent. When will they apply from?
The minimum flow provisions in the LWRP apply from 1 July 2023. If a resource consent currently does not have a minimum flow condition, new minimum flow conditions will be added and these will apply from 1 July 2023. The consent will continue to have no minimum flow condition until 30 June 2023.
If your resource consent currently does have a minimum flow condition, new updated minimum flow conditions will be added and these will apply from 1 July 2023. Your existing minimum flow condition will apply until 30 June 2023.
The new water metering and telemetry condition will also apply from 1 July 2023 to align with the new minimum flow conditions. Many consent holders will already have telemetry operating on their abstractions and will be considering installing it. If this is something you are considering, you are welcome to install telemetry before this date.
I already have a minimum flow condition on my resource consent. Why is Environment Canterbury reviewing my consent to put a new minimum flow condition on it?
The LWRP sets minimum flows for the Hakatere/Ashburton River mainstem and some tributaries that must be met from 1 July 2023. The LWRP was developed through a public process under the Resource Management Act and there is an expectation that its provisions are implemented. The minimum flows set in the LWRP can only be applied to resource consents if they expire and are replaced, if they are reviewed, or if resource consent holders voluntarily add them by changing their consent conditions.
The resource consents in this catchment have a variety of minimum flow conditions on them; few of these are compliant with the LWRP minimum flows and many have no minimum flow condition. Most resource consents in the catchment expire between 2028 and 2040, and it won’t be until all resource consents have the LWRP minimum flows that the benefits envisaged for the catchment will be realised. In addition, applying the minimum flows to all resource consents at the same time ensures equitable access to water for all users.
I have a resource consent to take groundwater. Environment Canterbury has said it is connected to a surface water body. How was the stream depletion calculated?
Actual stream depletion can only be determined using an aquifer (bore) test which is designed to calculate aquifer parameters unique to the abstraction location. Without an understanding of location specific bore parameters, Environment Canterbury uses a desktop assessment to determine the potential stream depletion classification on surface water bodies. This is undertaken in accordance with Schedule 9 of the LWRP.
I don’t agree that my groundwater take is connected to a surface water body. What should I do?
If you think that your groundwater take is not a stream depleting groundwater take, we recommend that you seek independent advice from your consultant. They would review the stream depletion calculation undertaken by Environment Canterbury and advise you what action you could take. They may recommend undertaking an aquifer test, but there is considerable cost associated with this approach. There may be alternative options for you before undertaking an aquifer test.
It is important that you advise us immediately if you are concerned that your groundwater take has been incorrectly classified, as Environment Canterbury’s staff will also be able to assist you.
Can I object to my resource consent being reviewed?
A consent that is being reviewed is treated as if it were an application for a resource consent. This means that it is possible to object to certain decisions that are made during the consent review process. If you wish to pursue an objection, we recommend that you discuss your concerns in the first instance with Environment Canterbury staff. You may also wish to seek independent advice.
Can I object/disagree to the new conditions that are proposed by Environment Canterbury?
The Resource Management Act sets out the formal process for completing a consent review and provides 20 working days for the consent holder to consider the new conditions and propose alternative conditions. Any alternative proposed conditions must also give effect to the provisions in the LWRP.
Environment Canterbury has extended the time period for consent holders to propose alternative conditions from 20 to 40 working days. This provides more time for consent holders to understand the review conditions and seek advice if they choose. The date that any proposed alternative conditions must be provided to Environment Canterbury is Thursday 12 September.
Will the consent review cost me money?
While the costs of the consent review process will be met by Environment Canterbury, a consent holder will need to meet the costs of any independent experts they choose to engage. There may also be costs to the consent holder to implement the new conditions. For example:
- Engaging a service provider to provide advice and installation of a suitable water metering and/or telemetry system, as well as ongoing metering and data management services;
- Engaging a consultant to provide advice on water use efficiency in order to adapt farming practices to respond to any changes in water availability.
What are the environmental benefits that will be gained from the consent review?
There are many environmental benefits that will be gained from implementing the minimum flows set in the LWRP. The minimum flows will ensure that an open river mouth will be maintained. This will result in free migration for fish, as well as improved water quality, particularly at the mouth or hāpua reach. There will be improvements in water quality throughout all the waterbodies in the catchment and improved habitat for indigenous species and sports fish.
The proposed new water metering condition will not work with my intake system. What do I do?
The proposed new water metering condition has been determined for the type of intake system that we have in our records for your water intake. The condition will be for either a piped or open channel intake system. If the proposed new water metering conditions will not work with the type of intake system that you have, please get in touch with us and we will update our records and replace the proposed new condition with the correct one for your intake system.
I have a resource consent to take water from a tributary of the Hakatere/Ashburton River. What will the proposed new minimum flow condition look like?
A resource consent to take water from a tributary of the Hakatere/Ashburton River will be subject to the minimum flow on the tributary water body and the minimum flow for the Hakatere/Ashburton River mainstem. This means that you will be subject to restriction as soon as either of the tributary or mainstem minimum flows are triggered.
How do I know if the flow in the river is low and I’m meant to be on restriction?
River flow and restriction information is available here. Restriction information for the following day becomes available at 3pm for rivers that have a flow calculated via a telemetered system, and at 5pm for rivers that have a flow gauged or assessed by staff in the field.
The information on the website is collated from a number of Environment Canterbury’s databases that record resource consent and river flow information. Search for your resource consent number, then click on the flow restrictions tab. This will show you the flow at the low flow site today, as well as the expected flow for tomorrow. This page will tell you the level of restriction you are on (if any applies at that time), as well as what tomorrow’s expected restriction may be.
During the irrigation season you will need to check the website daily to see if you need to restrict your rate of water take.
What changes can consent holders expect to their ability to take water?
There are eight Surface Water Abstraction Zones (SWAZ) in the Hakatere/Ashburton River catchment. The new minimum flow conditions will impact consent holders in every SWAZ by changing the availability of water.
For most, this means that consent holders will be on full or partial restriction during the irrigation season more frequently and for longer periods of time.
My farm is affected by Mycoplasma bovis. Do I have to go through a consent review at the moment?
We understand the significant effect and stress the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak has had on affected farmers. It is likely that the consent review process may apply to some properties that have been infected or that are under MPI restrictions.
We have issued the Notice of Review to all relevant resource consents to take water in the Hakatere/Ashburton River catchment. As we do not have a record of the farms affected by Mycoplasma bovis, please get in touch and let us know if you are affected by the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak so we can discuss the consent review process with you directly. We will keep your details confidential and no other agencies will be provided with this information.
Our primary concern at this time is to support farms to limit the spread of the disease and to rebuild healthy herds.
Who to contact if I have further questions about the review
Please email Environment Canterbury at firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance with your query so that we can work out the best person to correspond with you either by phone, email or in person. This may be a Consent Planner or one of our Science Team if your question is about a technical matter.