Changes to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Plan
77. Many submitters requested changes to Sections 2, 3 and 4. One submitter sought inclusion of a table of flow statistics at Waitaki Dam, including actual and modelled flows over different time periods. The Board noted that flow data for the full period of record, including data on natural inflows to the glacial lakes, had been available during preparation of the draft Plan. Therefore, the submitter's reference to the period January 1980 to December 2003 as the period of record used by the Board in preparing the draft Plan was not correct. The Board decided not to include the proposed table. The nature of the other changes requested was either to make factual corrections or to add more detail to the descriptions included in the draft Plan.
78. The Board considered all submissions and dealt with them as follows:
- Submissions on matters of fact (eg precipitation rates, irrigation area) were accepted and the Plan amended accordingly.
- Submissions on the detail of the Plan content were accepted where:
- The level of detail was comparable to the draft Plan as a whole.
- The changes sought improved the clarity of the Plan.
- The changes sought did not result in an imbalance in the descriptive parts of the Plan.
Table 2 was also modified on the same basis.
The scope of the Plan (Section 5)
79. The Board's duty is to develop and approve a plan to provide for the water allocation matters described in section 13 of the Waitaki Act, and set out in Section 2 of the Plan.
80. In Section 5 of the Plan, the Board acknowledges that water allocation has relationships with other aspects of resource management, and that the Plan does not provide for them. The Board has developed the Plan on the assumption and expectation that there will be parallel management provisions that address those related aspects of resource management.
81. Some submitters urged that the Board should extend the scope of the Plan to some of those related aspects of resource management, particularly rights under the Treaty of Waitangi, effects of allocating water on water quality, and on the coastal environment, and property rights.
82. A number of submitters requested that provisions relating to administrative matters be included in the Plan, rather than incorporated by reference to provisions of the Canterbury NRRP. In particular, submitters requested specific provisions on monitoring (both under sections 35 and 67(1)(i) of the RMA), and financial contributions and bonds.
83. The Board decided not to amend the Plan in those ways for four main reasons:
- The Board's function is to provide for the matters described in section 13 of the Waitaki Act and the Board is not satisfied that any of the related resource management aspects referred to is within the matters described:
- The Board's function is to prepare a plan for the Waitaki catchment as defined in section 4 of the Waitaki Act, including the Waitaki River to its confluence with the sea at a particular grid reference. Matters relating to the coastal area are clearly outside the definition of the catchment. The Board was satisfied that environmental effects on the coastal environment will be considered in resource consent decisions, and included consideration of such matters in a number of policies.
- No submission stated the text of the provision sought for inclusion in the Plan, so that substantial drafting would have been required without real opportunity for participation by those potentially affected or interested:
- The time available to the Board for hearing and considering submissions and evidence, making decisions, completing the Plan, and approving it did not allow for the Board to prepare new sections of the Plan on any new substantive topic.
84. So in completing and approving the Plan, the Board did not include in it any provisions on the additional topics sought by submitters. The scope of the Plan remains as proposed, leaving provision for related resource management aspects to be made by the relevant elected local authorities. The Board has added financial contributions and bonds to the matters that are incorporated in the Plan by reference to the NRRP, to make it clear that these are available to be included in conditions of resource consent granted under this Plan.
Objectives of the Plan
The relationship of Objectives 1 and 2
85. The draft Plan made Objective 2 subject to Objective 1. Although that was supported by some submitters, others sought that the two objectives be merged, or the subordination of Objective 2 to Objective 1 removed.
86. The Board understood that it is entitled to subordinate one objective to another if it judges that appropriate in the particular case. However, having considered the submissions and evidence, the Board concluded that as general objectives for the Plan as a whole, the appropriate relationship between Objectives 1 and 2 should reflect the Board's judgement on the counterpoint between the enabling provisions and the sustaining provisions in s5(2).
87. Accordingly the Board has deleted from Objective 2 the words "subject to Objective 1"; and has replaced them with the words "To the extent consistent with Objective 1".
Amendments to Objective 1
88. Submitters also sought various amendments to Objective 1, including the addition of various matters. Many of the additional matters are already covered more generally by existing items in the objective; and with the counterpoint between Objectives 1 and 2, others are included in general terms in Objective 2, where they appropriately fit. The Board accepted proposed amendments to the wording of Objective 1 that respond to the language of the legislation, and more clearly explain the intent.
89. The Board did not allow a submission that the Local Government Act 2002 be reflected in the objectives, because the Plan is specifically developed under the Resource Management Act, not the Local Government Act.
Amendments to Objective 2
90. The Board did not allow a submission that hydro-electricity generation be deleted from Objective 2, finding on the evidence presented that provision of water for that activity is a realistic and appropriate way (among others) of enabling people and communities to provide for their wellbeing.
91. A submitter sought amendment of Objective 2 by "the expression of rangatiratanga" and another by "an allocation in perpetuity as per Article 2 of the Treaty". Neither submission was specific about the provision sought.
92. In developing the Plan, the Board has taken into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. As well as in more general ways, the Plan identifies in Objective 1 recognising the importance of maintaining the integrity of the mauri in meeting the specific spiritual and cultural needs of the tangata whenua.
93. But the Board does not have authority to impose on a regional council specific obligations of the Crown, as Treaty partner, in response to the claim to rangatiratanga in respect of the waters of the catchment; nor does it have authority to decide on any particular claim under the Treaty to an allocation of water. Further, the submissions were not sufficiently specific for the Crown to be expected to respond to them.
94. So the Board held that its consideration of submissions on the draft Plan was not an appropriate forum for deciding on those claims by submitters, and decided that the Plan is not the appropriate instrument for giving effect to any decision to accept them.
95. The Board allowed a submission questioning whether the item "future unknown activities" should be retained in Objective 2, to the extent that it re-worded item f to read "any other activities". The Board also responded to a submission for clarification of whether items a to f are set out in order of importance, by adding a footnote that this is not implied.
96. Some submitters wanted Objective 3 altered to give a weighting to local costs and benefits higher than is given to national costs and benefits. Others sought that the reference to national and local costs and benefits should be amended by including regional costs and benefits. Other submitters wanted the objective recast to give priority to recognition of beneficial and adverse effects on the environment over national and local costs and benefits in order of importance: environment, social/cultural and economic; and another submitter wanted to introduce, after reference to the effects on the environment, specific reference to promoting soil conservation and water-holding capacities.
97. The Board considered that Objective 3 does not give any weighting to national costs and benefits higher than is given to local costs and benefits, and that the requests for amendment in that respect were based on a misreading of the objective. The Board considered that amending the objective to include regional costs and benefits is not necessary, and that introducing a priority for environmental costs and benefits over social, cultural and economic costs and benefits would be inappropriate. The Board also considered that singling out promoting soil conservation and water-holding capacities would leave uncertainty whether other environmental qualities are intended to be given less weight.
98. Some submitters asked the Board to add to Objective 3: "... and require financial compensation and mitigation to remedy these adverse effects".
99. The Board considered that these alterations would not be appropriate because the RMA does not authorise a regional council to include provision in a regional plan for financial compensation for adverse effects; and requiring financial compensation and mitigation are policies, not objectives.
100. Several submitters proposed a variety of amendments to Objective 4. Having reviewed the objective and the submissions, the Board concluded that some of the proposed amendments would detract from the clarity of the intent by extending the scope of the objective; but that it would be improved by inserting the word "allocated" to qualify the word "water".
101. Several submitters proposed amendments to Objective 5. Having reviewed the objective and the submissions, the Board concluded that rewriting the objective as proposed would detract from the clarity of the intent, introduce unnecessary reference to taking of water for purposes not governed by the Plan, and diminish the incentive for rural industries to make appropriate provision for their own needs when water is short. The Board also considered that extending the objective to apply at all times, and adding reference to environmental impacts, would also detract from the clarity of the intent to provide for times when water is short. However, the Board agreed that it would be appropriate to confine the objective to the sharing of allocated water.
102. Some submitters sought the addition of new objectives. These objectives were considered by the Board to be about matters that were either not within the scope of, or already addressed in, the Plan. The Board made no changes in those respects.
Catchment-wide approach (Policy 1)
103. There were a large number of submissions both in support and opposition to Policy 1 overall and to specific details of the policy and its explanation.
104. In particular, a number of submitters felt that the term 'holistic' was not appropriate in the context; and there was a proposal to add social and economic concepts to the policy.
105. The policy was included because the integrity and mauri of a braided river system depends on the integrated management or all constituent parts of the system including wetlands, riparian margins, backwaters, tributaries and main channels.
106. The Board carefully considered the matters raised and decided to amend the wording of the policy to more precisely state its intent, by using the phrase 'whole-catchment'. It decided that adding social and economic concepts to this policy would confuse the distinct description of it, and would reduce the clarity of it in the context of all the catchment-wide policies.
Environmental flow and level regimes
107. The Board received extensive submissions on the environmental flow and level regimes. These included submissions on the Board's overall approach to setting the regimes, on the individual components of the regimes established in the draft Plan, on the structure and components of the principal rule (Rule 2), and on the specific policies and rules for each water body.
108. Of the latter, the Lower Waitaki River received the most attention from submitters, and they provided views and considerable evidence on various approaches given the managed but dynamic nature of the river. The Tekapo River minimum flow and Lake Tekapo level also attracted many submissions. The submissions were both in support of and against the provisions in the draft Plan.
109. The sections which follow move through general approaches and policies, then on to location-specific policies and rules, starting at the top end of the catchment and finishing with the Lower Waitaki River. Aspects of the approach taken in Rule 2 are then considered. The high natural-character water bodies are addressed later.
Information and values used to set environmental flow regimes
110. Some submitters requested that the Board alter its approach and not set environmental flow and level regimes, because they considered that there was insufficient information on the hydrology and values of many water bodies to achieve a workable result. The Board was not persuaded that it had insufficient information to set these regimes, and held that it had a duty to develop the Plan on the best information available, and to increase certainty to existing and potential users as to the circumstances under which they can take, use, dam or divert water. The Board noted that there is nothing in the Plan that would stop detailed investigations from occurring in the future and results being incorporated by plan changes.
111. In general, environmental flow and level regimes were set on the following basis:
- a minimum flow or level as specified in existing consents, or set as the 5-year 7-day low flow
- allocation limits are used where the removal of only a small proportion of water is considered appropriate; where further allocation is considered inappropriate (small spring-fed streams like Waikakahi Stream); in Fork Stream to maintain flows in the Tekapo River; and in areas where there are no flow recorders and it will be difficult to effectively manage minimum flows (the eastern part of the Mackenzie basin)
- flow sharing below the mean in those rivers that are important spawning tributaries of the Lower Waitaki River.
Policies 3 - 6
112. Submitters requested changes both to wording and to the effect of these policies.
113. Many changes were sought to Policy 4. The Board considered that none of the matters a - o should be deleted, but decided to add two further matters: "effects on water quality" and "existing flow and level regimes, physical resources and activities", as these are relevant matters considered in setting environmental flow and level regimes. Some additional matters proposed are outside the scope of the Plan (eg effects on coastal processes), or are already covered by a more general statement, and the Board decided not to make those changes. The Board made wording changes to several of the 'matters for consideration' to incorporate parts of proposed changes, or to clarify the intent of the Plan by describing matters that were considered in setting environmental flow regimes.
114. The Board accepted that a criterion in Policy 5 relating to naturally occurring dry river and stream beds applies to setting both surface and groundwater regimes. It re-worded the criterion for clarity and moved it to Policy 4 accordingly. The explanation of Policy 5 refers to groundwater regimes that are not set in this Plan.
115. A submitter requested that the concept of 'shallow groundwater' (Policy 6) be removed from the Plan. The Board did not accept that the concept of shallow groundwater should be removed from the Plan, but clarified the definition of the term.
Monitoring sites and point of achieving minimum flow
116. Submitters requested that the Plan be clear that minimum flows must be achieved over the full reach, not just at a particular point. Requests that monitoring sites be identified in the Plan were also considered. Some monitoring points have been identified, but the Board considered that, in general, the Plan should provide flexibility to the regional council to select the most appropriate site to give effect to the environmental flow regimes set by this Plan. Amendments were made to Rule 2, Table 3 to clarify that minimum flows are to be achieved at the downstream end of water bodies.
117. Requests were also made to set minimum flows in additional tributaries. The Board declined to include additional minimum flows, but noted that the regional council can still do this in the resource consent process in order to achieve the environmental flow regimes set in the Plan. The amendments made respond to submissions about implementation problems, but also leave some aspects of implementation to the regional council.
118. Submitters had various interpretations of the application of minimum flows below control structures. To clarify this, the Board accepted the suggestion to add the following sentence to the definition of minimum flows: Where a river is dammed, outflows and inflows must be managed to maintain or exceed the minimum lake level and minimum flow downstream.
Policy 7 - small streams
119. Some submitters requested that Policy 7 refer to a consent authority granting a consent on a small stream if there is no viable alternative. Submissions sought changes to direct the consent authority's discretion, by making reference to other matters, including viability of alternatives, application to replacement of existing consents and water harvesting. One submitter sought an amendment that would have the effect of incorporating a minimum flow into the policy, and others wanted a prohibition on takes from small streams.
120. The Board noted that this policy, like many others in the draft Plan, does not have a directly associated rule; rather it is referred to in a number of rules as a matter for discretion. The specifics of an individual application would be considered, in relation to the policy, by the consent authority. The Board considered that this approach is appropriate, and the policy was not altered. The consent authority has full discretion over whether or not to grant the resource consent, and in imposing conditions of consent if granted. A submission to clarify the policy by altering "larger streams" to "larger water bodies" was accepted.
Policy 8 - Water harvesting / flow sharing
121. The purpose of Policy 8 (and of Rule 2(1) c which implements it), is to provide for water harvesting while allowing natural variations in water bodies to be mimicked. That purpose was not challenged by submitters, but some provided information on practical issues around implementation, particularly in the Hakataramea, Maerewhenua and Lower Waitaki Rivers. The Board altered the policy to more clearly reflect the intent, and also provide flexibility for consent applicants and the consent authority to determine suitable regimes that maintain flow variability. Flow-sharing above the mean was removed from the environmental flow regime rules for the Hakataramea, Maerewhenua and Lower Waitaki Rivers. Flow-sharing rules were altered for the Maerewhenua and Hakataramea Rivers (refer to the sections on specific changes for these rivers).
Lakes Tekapo, Pūkaki and Ōhau
122. The Board was not persuaded that a request to include maximum lake levels and operating rules for these lakes in the Plan is either justified or within the scope of this water allocation plan, and considered that these are matters appropriately managed through the consent process.
123. Minimum lake levels were included in the Plan to avoid compromising the amenity, intrinsic and cultural values. Only essential domestic and stock drinking-water were made exempt from the rule, because of their importance and relatively small size. Other activities were classified as prohibited activities.
124. In response to submissions, the Board considered that it would be appropriate to classify as discretionary activities, rather than as prohibited activities, the temporary lowering of levels in these lakes for infrastructure maintenance purposes. It added a new Policy 37, and amended Rule 3 accordingly.
125. Submitters sought various changes to Policy 35 and Rule 3 regarding uses that might continue when these lakes are at or below their minimum levels. The Board noted that the exemptions from minimum lake levels in Rule 3 (2) are in addition to essential uses under section 14(3) RMA.
126. On balance, the Board considered that the activities that should be exempt from the minimum lake levels (in addition to essential uses) are:
- town and community water supplies
- stock drinking-water
- tourism and recreational facilities
- maintaining fire-fighting capacity
- processing and storage of perishable produce.
127. The Board considered that the effects on lake levels from continuation of these activities would be minor, as their water requirements are generally small, but that not providing an exemption could be severely detrimental. However, the Board considered that taking water from the hydro-electricity canals should not be exempt from the minimum lake levels, nor should taking water for other purposes directly from the lakes. The Board amended Policy 35 and Rule 3 (including Table 4) to give effect to these decisions.
128. The Board also considered that activities taking water from the tributaries to these lakes should be exempt from the minimum lake levels. These tributaries are high natural-character water bodies, and have an allocation limit of 10% mean annual low flow. These takes would also have no more than a minor effect on the lake levels.
Lake Tekapo environmental level regime
129. The minimum levels of Lake Tekapo set in Rule 3 (Table 4) were amended to reflect the existing levels set by the current consents, as requested, this having been the Board's original intention. The levels in the draft were clearly inconsistent with the explanation to Policies 35 and 36, and Table 50 of the Section 32 report.
130. Submitters requested identification of a statutory agency that would be responsible for defining a national power shortage in Policy 36 and Table 4. The Board decided that an appropriate test would be when the aggregate storage for the nation or the region that includes the Waitaki catchment is below the second (emergency) zone established by the Electricity Commission. The Board changed Policy 36 and Table 4 (Rule 3) accordingly.
Lakes Pūkaki and Ōhau environmental level regimes
131. A submitter requested that the Plan be amended to enable Lake Pūkaki levels to be raised to provide further storage. There was insufficient information provided on the storage gains that could be achieved, or on the environmental effects. Accordingly, the Board decided not to give effect to the submission.
Tekapo River environmental flow regime
132. Submitters requested minimum flows ranging from 0 to 4 cubic metres per second in the upper section of the Tekapo River, and that the minimum flow vary between reaches of the Tekapo River. Some abstraction was sought from sections of the Tekapo River.
133. On balance, after considering the further information and evidence provided to it by submitters, the Board judged that the costs of requiring water to be released directly from Lake Tekapo into the upper Tekapo River to achieve a continuity of flow from the mountains to the sea outweighed the benefits. Factors that the Board took into account in reaching this conclusion included:
- the costs and other implications of forgone generation
- costs of changes to structures to enable a permanent release
- ecological issues
- effects on existing trout habitat and angling
- effects on amenity values
- representations by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
134. The Board amended Policy 39 (formerly Policy 38) and Rule 2 accordingly.
135. Information provided gave further detail on the flows in the lower Tekapo River, and the demand for irrigation adjacent to the lower river. The Board agreed to amend Table 3 ii to provide an allocation for abstraction of 0.7 cubic metres per second below the Grays River confluence, and also set a minimum flow between the Fork Stream confluence and Lake Benmore. The minimum flow was set at 3.4 cubic metres per second measured immediately downstream of the Mary Burn confluence.
136. As one of the ways of enabling effect to be given to the MIC-MEL agreement (already referred to) the Board also amended Rule 2 Table 3 ii by adding:
"d. Any taking of water that has been released into the Tekapo River from Lake George Scott for agricultural and horticultural activities is in addition to the allocation limits... above"
Pūkaki and Ōhau Rivers environmental flow regime
137. Submitters sought minimum flows ranging from 0 to 4 metres per second in these rivers. In consideration of the range of flows sought the Board took into account a wide range of information provided. The Board was not persuaded that the benefits of releases from the dams to the Pūkaki or lower Ōhau Rivers would outweigh the costs, in part because of the magnitude of the release required to achieve reasonable benefits.
138. In reaching this conclusion the Board considered
- the costs and other implications of forgone generation
- costs of changes to structures to enable a permanent release
- effects on amenity values
- representations by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
139. Some submissions proposed that in the upper Ōhau River, the environmental flow regime recognise Benmore Irrigation Company's consent to take. The Board agreed that this would be appropriate, and an amendment to Table 3 was made.
Tekapo, Pūkaki and Ōhau Rivers
140. Some submitters provided evidence on the importance of vegetation control for providing habitat for native bird species, and their desire not to jeopardise funding for Project River Recovery.
141. Without belittling the value of Project River Recovery or the importance of continued funding for it, decisions whether to continue donations for that project are for the donors to make. The Board held that its decisions about the contents of the Plan should not be influenced by concern that one or more donors may discontinue funding if dissatisfied with those decisions.
142. Some submitters sought the deletion of the policy acknowledging the association of these rivers with the mana of the glacial lakes, others supported its concept of connectedness. The Board was not convinced that a case had been made for deletion, and the policy was retained, now Policy 38.
143. Meridian Energy Limited requested the addition of two new policies that would include recognition of the national importance of hydro-electricity storage and generation of Lakes Tekapo, Pūkaki and Ōhau. Meridian Energy Limited further requested that the Plan specify zero minimum flows in the Pūkaki River, the Tekapo River (upstream of Lake George Scott) and the lower Ōhau River. The amendments made by the Board do not include the new policies, as it concluded that the matters raised are addressed elsewhere in the Plan. Similar proposals for other new policies were also not given effect for the same reasons. Although the Board accepted that the costs of returning water to these rivers may outweigh and be out of proportion with the benefits, it did not consider that the starting point for replacement consents should be a dry river. Consequently, the Plan does not specify an environmental flow for these rivers, and replacement consents will be considered as a discretionary activity in terms of Rule 19.
Mary Burn and Irishman Creek
144. For these water bodies, submitters provided consistent and detailed information on environmental flow regimes that have been negotiated and agreed through the consent process. The Board concluded that these regimes provided for the environmental values identified, and Rule 2, Table 3was amended accordingly.
Wairepo Creek and tributaries
145. On considering the submissions and evidence, the Board decided to make separate provisions for the parts of the catchment upstream and downstream of State Highway 8. The environmental flow regime remains otherwise unchanged.
Twizel River and tributaries
146. Submitters requested separate provisions for the Bendrose and Fraser tributaries of the Twizel River. The Board found that the groundwater losses downstream of State Highway 8 warranted a separate minimum flow for that reach. However it considered that an additional minimum flow upstream of the State highway would be unnecessarily detailed for the Plan. On a resource consent application, a consent authority could set additional minimum flows on the tributaries as a means of ensuring compliance with the downstream flow set in the Plan.
Lakes Ruataniwha, Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki
147. In relation to Lakes Ruataniwha, Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki, submitters requested changes, including that "Ngāi Tahu values" be added, and that these lakes be described in the policy as "artificial hydro-electricity storage lakes". The Board was not persuaded to make any changes, except those required for clarification.
148. Submitters requested an allocation from Lake Ruataniwha to Lake Waitaki for uses other than hydro-electricity generation. The Board noted that the minimum lake levels set in Rule 2, Table 3, and the allocation to activities upstream of the Waitaki Dam contained in Rule 6, Table 5, address the taking, damming, diverting or using water from these lakes. Those provisions do not prevent new takes or diversions from these lakes. Similar submissions were concerned about takes from the tributaries of these lakes, for which there was not a specific entry in Table 3 of the draft Plan. An example is the Otematata River, where submitters were concerned that takes from these tributaries would be related to the controlled levels of Lake Benmore. The Plan addresses takes from these tributaries in Table 3 (row xxii), and establishes an environmental flow regime relating to flow in the river, rather than to the lake levels.
149. The Board was not persuaded that any change was needed, as the submitters' concerns are already provided for. It left the rules relating to these lakes unchanged.
150. Submitters requested changes to matters relating to fish habitat and fishing in the policy for the Hakataramea River. The Board amended Policy 43 (formerly Policy 42), with alterations to c and d, to give effect to submissions. It was not persuaded to make the other changes, but noted that changes elsewhere in the Plan might achieve, in part, the change sought to the application of the environmental flow regime at a downstream point in a water body. Consequential and clarification changes were also made.
151. Angling and conservation interests sought higher minimum flows, especially in the salmon spawning months (April - June). Farming interests provided information on their requirements for water, and on current investigations into water storage options. There was evidence that the economic cost of the proposed environmental flow regime for the Hakataramea River, particularly the requirement for flow sharing at high flows, would be very high. Various alternative regimes were suggested. On balance, the Board decided to amend the environmental flow regime to better meet the specific needs of salmon spawning and water harvesting.
152. The minimum flow from April to August was increased to 0.75 cubic metres per second for passage of salmon for spawning. The Board noted that this was outside the main irrigation-demand period, and retained the minimum at 0.5 cubic metres per second for the rest of the year. Flow-sharing requirements were reduced, and do not apply when the flow is over 4.5 cubic metres per second. In removing from the rule the requirement for flow-sharing at higher flows, the Board noted that Policy 8 would still apply to consent applications for water harvesting, and the applicant would need to ensure that sufficient flow variability is maintained.
153. Submitters who requested changes were concerned that the rule did not make it clear that the minimum flow should apply over the whole reach. Some also sought higher minimum flows. Farmers described their water requirements, and potential for water harvesting.
154. The Board decided to clarify the rule by specifying that the minimum flow needs to be met at State Highway 83, at the lower end of the catchment. The Board did not specify where the flow should be measured, leaving the implementation to the regional council.
155. Provisions for flow-sharing were amended in a similar manner to those for the Hakataramea catchment, to provide more flexibility for water harvesting.
156. Submitters sought that the minimum flow in the Awakino River be increased to recognise its importance in providing habitat and spawning areas for the Lower Waitaki River fisheries. The Board increased the minimum flows (to be achieved at State Highway 83) to 0.4 cubic metres per second from October to April and 0.5 cubic metres from May to September, but was not persuaded to add additional minimum flows in each branch. The Board judged that the revised environmental flow regime appropriately recognises the fish spawning and habitat in the Awakino River, and is at a level of detail appropriate in a plan. The consent authority can add further minimum flows in tributaries if necessary to ensure compliance with the downstream flows set in this Plan.
Lower Waitaki River environmental flow regime
157. Submitters presented in considerable detail their views and information on the components that should be incorporated in to an environmental flow regime for the Lower Waitaki River. The Board noted that, with respect to allocation issues, there are four key components:
- minimum flow.
- variability in flows above minimum (ie duration and frequency of minimum or low flow). Submitters made various suggestions for achieving these, including flow-sharing above the minimum and capping an allocation to abstraction (allocation limit).
- base and flood flows including providing for release of flushing and flood flows. Submitters provided evidence of work that had been carried out to determine an appropriate flushing flow, its duration and frequency.
- implications for availability of water for irrigation and hydro-electricity generation.
158. Many submitters emphasised that the environmental flow regime for the Lower Waitaki River has effects on other aspects of the water allocation process, including:
- operation of upstream hydro-electricity infrastructure
- potential for new hydro-electricity generation
- new abstractions
- existing abstractions.
159. The Board found that the regime proposed in the draft Plan would have disadvantages, including the environmental effects of extended periods when the river would sit at the minimum flow; significant loss of reliability of water supply for irrigation; reduction of flexibility in operating the hydro-generation system; and losses in the value of the system for hydro-electricity generation.
160. The Board received extensive evidence on the water required for different uses and values in the Lower Waitaki River. The Board found that habitat requirements are generally well provided for if flows are between 80 and 250 cubic metres per second, and that connectedness to riparian margins, wetlands and backwaters requires flows of at least 150 cubic metres per second. Closing of the river mouth is avoided at flows above 80 cubic metres per second. The flow requirements to sustain the physical characteristics of a dynamic braided river are subjective. Most uses and values require or are enhanced by flow variability and flushing flows.
161. The Board was persuaded by evidence that holding the flow constant for weeks at a time (flat-lining the flow) in the Lower Waitaki River would create adverse ecological and physical effects on the river. The Board found that when the amount taken or diverted exceeds 90 cubic metres per second, there is potential to flat-line the river between flushing flow events.
162. The Board found that the use of two environmental flow regimes would enhance opportunities for providing for competing demand for water of the Lower Waitaki River.
163. The Board amended Policy 45 (formerly Policy 44) by splitting the environmental flow regime into reaches upstream and downstream of Black Point to better provide for competing demands for different activities. Two different environmental flow regimes have been set in the Lower Waitaki River, both of which provide minimum flows. For the reach downstream of Black Point, flow variability above the minimum flow is provided for by an allocation limit of 90 cubic metres per second. In the reach between Waitaki Dam and Black Point, variability above the minimum flow is provided for by flushing flows, and by the addition of Policy 45(2). Policy 45(2) requires consideration of these effects on flow variability if more than 90 cubic metres per second is to be abstracted upstream of Black Point.
164. The Board reduced the minimum flow (from that set in the draft Plan) to 150 cubic metres per second. The Board considered that, on balance, a lower minimum would reduce the flat-lining effect of a higher minimum, and better provide for irrigation and for hydro-electricity generation. A requirement has been added for flushing flows for the Lower Waitaki River upstream of Black Point to allow for an environmental flow regime with a minimum flow. A flushing flow of 450 metres per second at least seven times per year was adopted. The Board noted (among other matters) that a flow of 150 cubic metres per second is between the mean annual 7-day low flow of 134 cubic metres per second that would have occurred over the period 1920 - 2003 had there been no artificial storage, and one of 186 cubic metres per second that would have occurred had the current storage and hydro-electricity operating rules been in place for the same period.
165. Submitters proposed that there should be provision to allow a lower minimum flow during dry years. One suggestion was to qualify "minimum flow" with "or the natural flow of river, whichever is the lesser." The evidence showed that the absence of an exception to the minimum flow requirements in times of naturally low inflows to the catchment would result in reducing flexibility in the operation of the upstream hydro-electricity infrastructure, and affect implementation of the environmental flow regime. The Board made provision for an extreme minimum flow in winters when inflows the previous summer were less than or equal to the 1-in-20 year low inflows. The extreme minimum flow reduces the need for water to be stored to provide for naturally occurring dry years.
166. Meridian Energy Limited also sought that the minimum flow be measured as a rolling hourly rate of discharge, and explained that an instantaneous flow measurement for a minimum flow would require release of a buffer of 20 - 30 cubic metres per second to ensure that brief and infrequent machine outages do not result in breach of the minimum flow requirement. The Board accepted that, and altered Table 3 accordingly.
167. Some submitters sought that the ramping rates for the flow releases at the dam be included in the Plan, and noted the adverse environmental effects of rapid increases and decreases in flows. The Board was not persuaded that ramping rates should be included in the Plan, and considered that these are appropriately provided for as consent conditions, as at present.
168. Some submitters asked that the Plan provide for a river management strategy. The Board accepts that the concept could be worthwhile, but considered that many elements of a strategy would be outside the scope of the Plan. So the Board decided against including provision for it in the Plan, but notes that the Plan does not preclude development of a river management strategy.
Other water bodies
169. Some submitters sought amendments to the policy on other rivers and streams in the upper catchment and clarification, including deletion of the policy and reference to "the natural, amenity and recreational values" of the streams of the upper catchment. Submitters sought changes to the policy on tributaries of the Lower Waitaki River that would have the effect of altering the application of the environmental flow regime. For both policies, inclusion of a new point "the relationship of Ngāi Tahu with the river" was requested. The Board was not persuaded to expand the policies but made amendments for clarification.
170. The Board made no changes to the provisions in respect of the Fork Stream and its tributaries; the Grays River and its tributaries; the Hen Burn and its tributaries; or the Otematata River. The Board found that it had no information on different values. Nor did it have evidence that changing the minimum flows would increase value, or that allowing more abstraction would outweigh the benefit of the minimum flows to instream values. The allocation limit on the Quail Burn was increased to provide for existing consents.
171. Many submitters proposed a variety of alterations to Rule 2 and Table 3, including deletion of the table altogether, and adding other rivers and streams to it. The Board reviewed the table and concluded that it is integral to the rule for implementing the policies. The Board was not persuaded to add further rivers and streams to the table, as those requested are already included in provision for "all other rivers and streams", or are tributaries of a sub-catchment already listed.
172. In allowing another submission the Board added fisheries and wildlife to the exemption from the allocation limits; and also made other amendments to the rule consequential on changes to policies, or for clarity.
173. Submitters requested that when existing resource consent expire and replacements are sought, applicants should not be restricted by the allocation limits in Table 3. The existing allocation exceeds the allocation limit in the Wairepo Creek , Mistake River and Waikakahi Stream. The Board's intention for takes or diversions from these water bodies is to maintain their inclusion in allocation limits but expect consent holders to meet the efficiency policies of the Plan (refer Policy 28). The Board accepted that to exempt such consents from the allocation limits set in Table 3 would be consistent with its policy, and adjusted Rule 2(1)b accordingly.
174. Some submitters asked that flushing flows be added to all rivers listed in Table 3. Flushing flows can only be provided if water is stored upstream. The allocation limits and the flow sharing thresholds are intended to keep a natural pattern of high flow events. So the Board did not add flushing flows to the environmental flow regime of any rivers other than the Lower Waitaki River.