21 September 2018

Bay of Plenty Regional Councillors have unanimously approved the adoption of the Region-wide Water Quantity Plan Change (Plan Change Nine) to strengthen water allocation limits and management in the Bay of Plenty.

Council’s decision was made at this week’s Regional Direction and Delivery Committee meeting. It was based on the recommendations of an independent hearings panel and more than 269 submissions received from iwi, industry and the wider public since consultation first began in 2015.

Hearings Panel Chair Antoine Coffin said that deliberations took longer than expected because of the substance and strong positions of the submissions received.

“We’ve taken the time necessary to work through the diverse and polarising views that were expressed through some submissions, and find the most appropriate balance. We felt it was important to set conservative limits that best reflect the current state of the national policy framework and knowledge about water availability, use, and environmental sustainability. These plan provisions will hold the line; enabling more detailed water-use data to be gathered and preventing cumulative low flow impacts, as an interim measure while localised decision-making is worked through on a catchment-by-catchment basis,” Mr Coffin said.

The approved new water quantity management policies, rules and methods will be publicly notified as a part of the Regional Natural Resources Plan on 9 October 2018, subject to any appeals received from submitters by 21 November.

The Regional Natural Resources Plan puts controls in place for people’s use of land, air and water in the region. It guides resource consent approval decisions as well as city and district council plans. The new water quantity management provisions that have been approved include:

  • confirmation of interim allocation limits and a policy to generally decline new applications for water takes in areas that are already fully allocated.
  • a special pathway to resource consent for existing dairy shed water takes (where required).
  • a requirement for existing water takes allowed as a permitted activity, to register with Council within 12 months of the rule becoming operative.
  • increased metering and reporting requirements for new consented water takes and some permitted takes.
  • a decrease in the amount of groundwater allowed to be taken as a permitted activity on properties smaller than 5 hectares.

Council staff will be developing and sharing activity-specific information through industry bodies and other appropriate channels, to help affected water users understand the implications for them. The changes will not directly impact people who receive water through a municipal water supply provided by their city or district council, or those that take water only for their reasonable domestic and stock drinking water needs.

The ‘generally decline’ policy for fully allocated catchments does not apply to renewals for existing consents. However, the plan change does include a policy to phase out over-allocation through various methods.

The region-wide plan change is part of a two-step process towards improving water quantity and quality management in the Bay of Plenty. Further catchment-specific plan changes will be developed and consulted on in the coming years with work already underway for the Kaituna Pongakawa and Rangitāiki Water Management Areas and due for public consultation next year.

Further details and a copy of the Hearings Panel report are available at www.boprc.govt.nz/waterquantity