Ashburton water consents review

Ashburton river 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.

As of August 2021, 60 of the 88 consents under review have been resolved.

Topics covered on this page:

Proposing alternative conditions

If your consent is under review, you have the right to propose alternative conditions to those outlined in the review notice.

If your alternative proposal includes a higher minimum flow or a delayed date for the minimum flow to apply, your consent review may be publicly notified.

Feel free to contact us if you’d like to discuss this prior to responding.

If you intend to swap your shallow groundwater or direct surface water take to deep groundwater, you will need to apply for a resource consent to authorise the deep groundwater take. An allocation is made in the Plan for such swaps and the consent process is more straightforward than applying for “new” water.

Please feel free to get in touch with us and we can pass your information to the appropriate consenting staff for pre-application advice.

For more information on how we will evaluate proposed alternative conditions, click on the question below.

What do we consider in making a decision on a consent review?

The Resource Management Act (RMA) guides what we can consider when deciding your consent review (see Section 131 of the RMA).

These matters include the actual and potential effects on the environment of allowing the activity, relevant plan provisions, and whether the activity allowed by the consent will continue to be viable after the change.

We may also consider the way the consent has been used.

Under the RMA, a council can only consider the impact of the review on the activity authorised by the consent that is being reviewed.

Therefore, we cannot consider the impacts of the review on your farming business as a whole, or on any other resource consents that you may hold.

It may be difficult to separate the consent that is being reviewed from the rest of your farming operation but please only provide information that relates to the consent that is being reviewed.

If you think that your consent will be significantly impacted by the consent review, you should provide information explaining your reasons.

We have information about your consented activity and how you use your consent from your consent application, compliance monitoring visits, and water metering data.

However, this information is often inadequate, especially for older consents, and the way you use your consent may have changed.

The following information will assist us:

  • How you currently use your consent: for example, irrigation type(s), land use type(s) and when you need access to water.
  • The impact the proposed new minimum flow will likely have on how you take and use water under the consent.
    For example, would the new water restrictions require you to change your stocking rates or crop types?
    What would be the cost of the changes?

Galloway consent review decision

Environment Canterbury has recently released a decision on a publicly notified review of a water permit to take and use water from the north branch of the Hakatere / Ashburton River. The consent holder had proposed an alternative minimum flow which was inconsistent with the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP).

A hearing was held in April 2021, and a commissioners' decision was released on 17 July. The decision was to grant the consent review with the LWRP minimum flow (north branch and State Highway 1 minimum flows), rather than the alternative sought by the consent holder (State Highway 1 minimum flow only).

Read the C & L Galloway consent review hearing – Decision of the hearing commissioners (PDF file, 722KB)

Consent review deadlines

Some consent holders have been granted extensions to their review, which give them more time to carry out tests, seek advice and come up with a proposal for alternative conditions.

If your extension deadline is approaching, you need to advise us of one of the following:

  1. If you are seeking a further extension to the timeframe to respond to your Notice of Review.
  2. If you are proposing alternative conditions to give effect to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

We are engaging with all those still under consent to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities. Failure to notify Environment Canterbury of one of these alternatives will be understood as no objection to consent review conditions.

Seeking further extensions

We previously stated that consent holders will not be granted further extensions beyond 30 November 2021, however, taking into consideration the change in circumstances and priorities you may be facing, we can offer further extensions to those who request one.


If you would like another extension, please contact consentsreviews@ecan.govt.nz. You will need to provide a reason why you require consent review.

  • What you have done to progress the review since the Notice of Review was sent in July 2019
  • Reasons you cannot provide the information to Environment Canterbury by the current deadline
  • How much additional time you are requesting
  • What you propose to do during the timeframe extension that you seek.

Find out more about the consent review process

Our team has engaged with the community to explain how the catchments’ waterways interact, how minimum flows are set and achieved, and what this means for river users.

If you have any doubts or questions, they may be answered below. For any

additional queries, please email Environment Canterbury at consentsreviews@ecan.govt.nz.

Frequently asked questions

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.

There may also be costs to the consent holder if they wish to pursue alternative water source options, such as deep groundwater or water storage.

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.

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 consentsreviews@ecan.govt.nz 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.

River modelling and stream depletion

How do we calculate the stream depletion effects of groundwater takes?

For assessing stream depletion effects of groundwater takes, we must calculate the distance of the groundwater take to the nearest river.

To do this, Environment Canterbury used its river classification GIS layer and made some adjustments to take account of river zones and alpine river extents. When considering river zones, the riparian area was included to ensure stream depletion effects were accurately assessed. No maximum distance from the nearest river was applied.

We are happy to consider alternative information to address any assumptions in our model that are not met – this will need detailed site-specific investigations of the stream depletion model inputs to provide a separate assessment of the potential for depletion, i.e. verified distance to the river zone along with hydraulic parameters established through aquifer testing on the subject bore(s).}

Hakatere/Ashburton River Modelling for Consent Review

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.

Desktop estimate of stream depletion in Canterbury

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.

Method

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.

Key points:

  • 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

References

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.

Stream depletion chart for consent holders

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 consentsreviews@ecan.govt.nz.

Key

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.

Response to 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.

Further questions

Below are questions that were raised at the consent holder meeting on 11 December 2019.

Why were the RDR spills included in the model?  

The modelling was done to show the relative change between the effect of the current minimum flow regime and the effect of the Plan minimum flow regime.

One of the assumptions made in the model was that water users will continue to use the water in the same way as they have done previously.

That means we did not include any potential changes to the way water is currently used in the catchment (for example changes to deep groundwater takes, efficiency gains, changes to ADC’s stockwater regime, formation of water user groups, land use changes, etc).

For this reason, the RDR spill was not removed from the flow record.

In any case, excluding the RDR spills would be unlikely to make a significant difference to the results of the modelling.

This view was confirmed by Mr Matt Bubb (Aqualinc Limited) during the consent holder meeting.

If seeking to transfer water, is there a way that no water would need to be surrendered given the uniqueness of the review process? 

The policies of the LWRP require that a portion of water is surrendered when water is transferred in an over-allocated catchment.

Given that the Ashburton/Hakatere catchment is over-allocated, some surrender of water would be expected when transferring consented water.

The LWRP does not specify a percentage to be surrendered and the exact amount would be decided on a case by case basis.

It is unlikely that a transfer would be granted without surrender but this could occur in some specific cases, for example where hardship can be demonstrated and a continuing need for the full allocation is shown.

What is the cost of compliance monitoring of minimum flows? 

Compliance monitoring fees are paid by consent holders and they vary from consent to consent depending on the type of minimum flow data used.

Compliance monitoring is charged at a rate of $120 per hour including GST. Monitoring a typical water permit takes 1.5-2 hours but this depends on complexity.

What does the LWRP anticipate that RDR’s role in the catchment will be?

During development of the LWRP, the Zone Committee considered at length the role of RDR.

Because RDR is a very significant water user in the Ashburton Zone, it was included in the preamble of the Sub Regional Chapter.

This preamble does not bind RDR to any action, but it does indicate that it has a significant leadership role in the catchment.

What is the process around a private plan change? If a private plan change is decided before 2023, would that be reviewed in 2023 with the rest of section 13? 

The private plan change process is driven and funded by the applicant.

Changes can only be requested to operative plans, and the applicant is responsible for preparing the request.

Requests generally require a high level of detail and can be costly and time consuming to prepare.

Therefore, they are better suited to large developments or issues. When the council receives the request it then decides how to process it (for example by accepting it, rejecting it or converting it to a resource consent).

Environment Canterbury may assist with preparation and provide advice to ensure a robust planning document, but the risk ultimately sits with the applicant.

In the event of a successful private plan change to section 13 of the LWRP, it is not expected that the changes made would be reviewed with the rest of the section.

What is Ashburton District Council (ADC) doing about cutting back? How much water has been given up by them?

Environment Canterbury understands that the ADC is finalising its plans for decommissioning the stockwater races and it is anticipated that ADC will communicate its plans to consent holders in the near future.

Will the Council use someone with farm system knowledge to look at the information that is provided to the Council? 

Environment Canterbury is in the process of engaging an expert with extensive farm system knowledge to assist with understanding the farming operation and the effects of the changes to minimum flows.

Can consent holders request to be heard and make their case to the decision maker/s? 
Yes, consent holders can request to be heard in front of decision maker/s.
Why was 40 metres chosen for depth of bores to show if they’re connected? Can this be changed? 

At the time of writing the sub-regional chapter, aquifer test results were indicating that the 30-metre depth used in other areas was not deep enough for Ashburton, meaning there was a risk of unanticipated stream depletion if that depth was used.

A depth of 40 metres was adopted to provide greater protection and certainty.

This could change through a plan review process.

Is the use of water in dairy sheds exempt from minimum flows? 
No, dairy sheds are not exempt from minimum flow requirements.
What can I do if the location information for my well(s) is not correct?  

We would welcome updated information regarding well locations if these are incorrect.

Consent holders can provide new information via the Consents Review email.

If you do this, please ensure that you provide evidence demonstrating why the existing information is not correct.

The stream depletion can then be recalculated to account for the correct bore location.

My consent review is on hold until September 2020. Should I wait until then to provide information or should I provide it sooner?

If you are able to respond prior to September 2020 we would encourage you to do so.

There will be no advantage in waiting until September.

We understand that some consent holders are undertaking pump tests or seeking to drill deeper bores, in which case their information won’t likely be ready prior to September.

 

Direct surface water takes
1. Consent holders in the North Branch consider that the hydrological modelling underestimates the effect that the minimum flow of 1,000 l/s will have on water availability. Could Environment Canterbury staff please clarify why they have confidence in the modelling, with particular reference to the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) spills?

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.

2. Consent holders consider that the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) minimum flows for O’Shea Creek, Mt Harding Creek and Lagmhor Creek are overly high. Where do these minimum flows come from and what information were they based on?

The minimum flows for the Hakatere / Ashburton River catchment tributaries and main stem were developed through a public process under the Resource Management Act (RMA) as part of the LWRP.

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.

3. Comments on reliability work presented regarding the South Branch and reference to RDR spill. Please provide background to the modelling approach and assumptions, including why the RDR spills were included and what the scenarios would look like if these were removed.

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.

4. At present North Branch direct takes are able to take water and fill their storage ponds when certain flows are achieved at the higher plains. The only way the North Branch users can achieve any use out of their consents is for this to happen even if SH1 is below 6 cumecs. Could they take high flows to fill on farm storage when SH1 is below 6 cumecs?

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).

5. Could allocation (l/s) be transferred to someone wanting to take high flows for storage? E.g. if someone has a consent for say 30 l/s, could we move an existing consent (say for 100l/s) to that location so that they can take 130 l/s to help fill their pond quickly?

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.

6. At present water can only be used for irrigation. With the likelihood of all water catchments requiring some form of Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) an environment use over the autumn to spring months could be useful. Could direct take consents have a consent to use water for irrigation and environmental flows?

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.

River augmentation and changing the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP)
7. If RDR water is introduced into the Ashburton River in the higher plains can it be removed from the Ashburton River for irrigation use, on a one to one basis, e.g. 100l/s in and 100l/s out?

Please refer to the answer to Question 8.

8. What is required to use Ashburton River and tributaries as conduit for scheme water?

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.

9. If a plan change is required when can this be achieved? Would Environment Canterbury support a change to the plan?

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.

Groundwater takes
10. Farmers need to prove minor connection to the river with say 3 days continuous pumping and modelled using assessment for 7 days and 150 days effect.

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.

11. What models have Environment Canterbury used to calculate river connection?

The desktop estimate of stream depletion was conducted utilising the Theis (1941) stream depletion solution model.

The methodology is presented in the memorandum “Desktop Estimate of Stream Depletion”. You can also view a chart presenting the values utilised for the model.

General questions
12. What information can I provide to Environment Canterbury to demonstrate the effects of the review on my resource consent?

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.
13. Who is paying for monitoring of tributaries and new sites in the Ashburton River?

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.

14. Will I need a resource consent if i move to an alternative source of water?

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.

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