The first stage
Demands on Bay of Plenty’s freshwater resources are increasing. People want to make more use of the limited water supply in our rivers, streams and aquifers. The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 brings change to the way councils manage freshwater. The Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement also directs us to make changes to the way we manage water. We need to set region-wide allocation limits, improve how we manage over-allocation of water and ensure it’s being used efficiently.
You can also download this information as a factsheet
Visit the Water Quantity Plan Change page for more information about the project.
What’s the Regional Council’s role?
Bay of Plenty Regional Council manages water allocation – whether it’s used for irrigation, industry, drinking water (municipal supplies) or generating electricity.
The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management highlights the challenges we face in managing water, including:
- ensuring it supports healthy stream ecosystems
- the importance placed on it for recreation
- our cultural heritage and values
- recognising how it’s part of our landscape
- ensuring water continues to support to our economic prosperity.
It’s not limited to how we manage the water we can see – the water in underground aquifers must also be managed carefully.
We must also ensure the involvement of tangata whenua, reflecting their values and interests.Our first step to doing this is to change our regional rule book for water allocation – the Bay of Plenty Regional Water and Land Plan.
Why is water so important?
In the Bay of Plenty it often seems like we have lots of water, but even now, in some places and at some times we don’t have enough for everyone who wants to use it.
In 2013 nearly two-thirds of our streams and 20 percent of our aquifers were already allocated above current limits.
The future suggests more water is needed – our population is growing and water supports our region’s economic development. Our key industries are land based and depend on water to grow. A 2011 study predicted that within 50 years water demand in the western Bay would double.
The Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Growth Study (published by the Ministry for Primary Industries) gave an independent view of growth opportunities in investment, incomes and employment. The study concluded “The Bay of Plenty’s freshwater resource is central to its future industry growth and economic development” and “Building on and extending the region’s water management framework in line with national guidance and community priorities is therefore a highly rated opportunity for the region.”
We need to make changes now to how we’re managing water, so that we’re able to take advantage of future growth opportunities while providing for the environmental, cultural and social well-being of our communitites.
What we need to do
Right now we’re looking at the balance between how much water is left in the natural environment and how much is used. We want to make sure that the amount allocated to be used is the right amount and isn’t wasted. It’s a big project so we’re doing it in two stages.
Stage 1: The Water Quantity Plan Change Process - a region-wide look
First, we’re taking a regional look at water allocation, and revising our regional rule book – the Regional Water and Land Plan. This will allow us to set a better framework for the whole region and fix some immediate problems. We’ve started by drafting some revised policies and rules for water quantity and before we begin a more formal process to put them in place, we need your feedback on whether they meet the mark.
The key topics we’re looking at are:
- Confirming existing limits to allocation
- Reducing the amount of groundwater able to be taken without resource consent
- Fixing existing unconsented taking of water by dairy farmers and irrigators
- Increased requirements for water users to meter and report water use
- Increased efficiency requirements and better opportunities to transfer water to other users
- Having better information about water availability and recognising the need to look at opportunities to increase water availability
Once we get your feedback in we’ll use it to form our Proposed Plan Change, which will go through a formal process to be adopted in early 2016.
Stage 2: Water Management Areas - a local longer-term look
Although we need to take a regional approach to fix some issues in the short term, we’re also taking a longer term approach to work with local communities to understand where the balance between use and natural values lies. This will result in further changes to the Regional Water and Land Plan in the future.
For this step, we’ve divided the region into nine catchment areas, and we’re establishing community groups that we will work with in each. Groups are initially being set up in the Rangitāiki and Kaituna/Maketū and Pongakawa/Waitahanui Catchments, with other groups being set up in 2018.
Community groups and Iwi Co-governance groups in each of these areas will help us understand what they want from water, both around water quality and quantity issues. You can find out more about this part of the process at our Freshwater Futures page
The Water Quantity Plan Change Process
There are four steps to this plan change process – the first and the one we’re currently in is purely a feedback stage.
We haven’t started a formal process yet – rather this is an opportunity for you to tell us what you think about our proposals, and for us to use that feedback to make changes. We want you to let us know if we are on the right track before we begin the statutory process early next year.
Step 1: August - December 2015: Informal feedback sought to see if we’re on the right track before preparing Proposed Plan Change (no legal effect)
Step 2: 2016: Proposed plan released for formal submissions
Step 3: Council considers submissions and holds hearings before making a decision
Step 4: Once any appeals are resolved, the Plan change becomes operative
Visit the Water Quantity Plan Change webpage to find out more about the project, how you can feedback to us about it and who to contact if you have further questions.