New rules approved by Environment Canterbury will streamline the consents process and strengthen restrictions on some activities to improve water quality across significant parts of the region, the council says.
The changes, bundled together in a suite of amendments to the Land and Water Regional Plan, were approved at a meeting on August 16.
As well as making Plan Change 7 to the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) partially operative from September 1 2023, it also agreed to make Plan Change 2 to the Waimakariri River Regional Plan fully operative.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) deputy chair Craig Pauling welcomed the changes as positive for the environment and the community.
“They will make things simpler for people and will streamline the consenting process, making it easier for staff and applicants alike to understand and navigate.”
Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury president David Acland is not so excited.
“It’s great that council has got something signed off but we have a whole lot of stuff ahead yet.
“We’ve got a monumental task in front of us as a community to implement and get government’s freshwater plan in place and in action by 2028.
“A lot of this work council has now signed off is a massive chunk of consultation Canterbury has been doing for a long time under the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. Now we have to turn around and do a lot of it all over again under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM).
“We now have to get people energised to engage again before we have bedded in the old one.
“It’s not a complete rehash but the NPSFM does force a revisit of a lot of concepts,” Acland said.
Pauling said extensive work by staff working closely with the Ōrāri Temuka Ōpihi Pareora and Waimakariri water zone committees and with input from the wider community have key changes including setting more stringent freshwater outcomes and water quality and quantity limits, identifying habitats of indigenous freshwater species, additional freshwater bathing sites and salmon spawning areas while restricting activities in order to protect them.
It is also revising the nutrient management framework to reduce the area allowed for winter grazing and irrigation as permitted activities and requiring farms in high nitrogen areas to reduce nitrogen losses over time; enabling consideration of Ngāi Tahu values in relation to a wider range of activities; setting new minimum flows and new limits on the volume of surface water and groundwater available; and a requirement to exclude stock from a wider range of water bodies.
Pauling said it has been a massive process over several years as the council worked to finalise the changes.
“It is a significant outcome as the plan began to be drafted in 2016, was lodged in 2019 and went to hearings during 2020 with a number of appeals being dealt with over the past few years, with all but one being resolved.
“It is great that we can get on with making the majority of the plan operative.”
Over the coming weeks the council will update the Land and Water Plan to incorporate the amendments.
The Canterbury LWRP is ECan’s plan for the integrated management of land and water resources within the Canterbury region.
Proposed changes in relation to plantation forestry will not be made operative until the appeal on these aspects of Plan Change 7 has been resolved.
Plan Change 2 is a consequential change to the Waimakariri River Regional Plan to exclude the northern tributaries of the Waimakariri River so that only one plan, the LWRP, applies to the management of land and freshwater resources in the Waimakariri sub-region.
Importantly, Pauling said the changes recognise and incorporate the community’s aspirations for water in the area covered by the plan.
“As a key priority, ECan will continue to focus on addressing consenting issues, as well as working on the review of the Regional Policy Statement and future reviews of our Land and Water Plans to bring them into line with the National NPSFW 2020.
“Making Plan Change 7 operative is a significant milestone, particularly due to the key rules around raising the bar on water quality and quantity targets, nutrient management and Ngāi Tahu values.
“It represents real and positive progress,” Pauling said.