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3 General submission summary

This section provides an overview of submitters’ positions on the proposed NES and summarises submitters’ general comments on the NES. Detailed comments on the content of the submissions can be found in section 4 of this report.

3.1 Summary of submitters’ positions

In total, 166 submissions were received. Figure 2 presents a summary of submissions by category. A full set of submitters’ names and categories is provided in Appendix B.

Figure 2: Breakdown of submissions, by category (%)

Figure 2: Breakdown of submissions, by category (%)

Text description: This bar graph represents the percentage of submitters by category. The greatest number of submissions came from the public, followed by local government (collectively), and then environmental organisations.

Sector %
Central Government 1
Regional Councils 8
District Councils 6
City Councils 2
Irrigation organisations 5
Primary Sector/Agriculture 10
Recreation 4
Water companies 2
Energy/Generators 8
Iwi 5
Environmental organisations 14
Other NGOs and companies 12
Public 23

Overall, submissions came from a broad range of sectors, with no one sector dominating. Most submissions were made by the public (22 per cent), followed by government organisations (district and city councils, regional councils and central government: 17 per cent) and then environmental organisations (15 per cent). Figure 3 represents the overall breakdown of submitter position as derived from the 1635 entries (rows) in Appendix C.

Figure 3: Breakdown of feedback points, by position

Figure 3: Breakdown of feedback points, by position

Text description: This pie chart represents the percentage of submissions that either support, oppose, or support in part, the proposed NES. That percentage labelled N/A did not specify a position in their submission.

Position percentage
Support 19
Support in part 31
Oppose 26
NA 25

The breakdown of position shows that the more common submission feedback is either ‘Support in part’ (conditional support) or ‘Oppose’. When ‘Support’ and ‘Support in part’ (conditional support) are combined, then it equates to just below half of the feedback.

Despite the above, it is noted that there are submitters opposed the proposed NES outright / entirely; however, most submitters want the proposed NES to be amended.

3.2 Topics covered by submissions

Figure 4 shows the proportion of submissions made in respect of each topics and then the type of submission that was made in respect of each topic. In total, 2370 feedback points were logged from the 166 submissions (note that the 1635 rows in Appendix C often address more than one question, hence the difference in numbers).

‘Technical methods’ attracted the most comment, followed by ‘Interim levels’ and ‘Scope of the proposed NES’ topics (Figure 4). These topic areas attracted the most submission points in opposition, however in relative terms, the scope and technical methods also attracted substantial support. Submission points on the ‘Need for interim levels’ and the ‘Application of proposed NES to existing and replacement consents’ were largely in opposition, but there was relative support for problems and issues to be addressed by the proposed NES.

Figure 4: Feedback points, by position on topic

Figure 4: Feedback points, by position on topic

This bar graph shows the number of feedback points broken by submitter's position on the topics set out in the Discussions Document. Topics 7-9 -'Technical Methods', had the most overall comments, followed by Topic 4 - 'Interim Limits', and then 'Scope of the proposed NES'.

Fig. 4:   Number of feedback points  
    Support Support in part Oppose NA
Scope of proposed NES Scope 41 55 51 67
Process to adoption / involvement Process 4 13 22 9
Q1 Problem & issues corect? Q1 56 37 20 16
Q2 Options / Alternatives Q2 19 33 15 23
Q3 Need for interim levels Q3 33 28 36 10
Q4 Interim levels Q4 19 89 114 63
Q5 Time limit for interim level Q5 29 34 22 23
Q6 Inclusion of existing consents in limits Q6 13 36 27 22
Q7,8,9 Technical methods Q7-9 70 101 52 83
Q10 Proposed NES approaches to breaches Q10 6 28 12 33
Q11 Application of proposed NES to existing and replacement consents Q11 16 26 33 15
Q12 & 13 Benefits and costs Q12-13 5 30 19 13
Other Other 3 3 34 41

3.3 Scope of the proposed NES

The majority of submitters generally supported the proposed NES and what it was trying to achieve. However, there was a great deal of concern about the scope of the NES being confined to ecological flows and water levels rather than environmental level flows and water levels; and about the relationship between the proposed NES and the proposed National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management. Approximately half the submissions supported the proposed NES outright or sought to have amendments and/or clarification provided within the document (supporters and conditional supporters). Those registered as N/A made up about a quarter of submissions.

A large number of submitters were concerned or uncertain about the scope of the proposed NES, and in particular whether it applies to wetlands, groundwater supplies and potable water supplies (and their users). There was concern about which activities would be allowed to continue unaffected once the proposed NES becomes operative. Notably, concern was expressed by submitters from water suppliers, irrigators (including those whose use of water is covered by the exemption in s14(3) of the RMA) and hydro-electric power industries.

A quarter of submitters opposed the scope of the proposed NES outright. Reasons given included the following.

  • Regional councils are already pursuing methods and policies and adopting methods (or can commence this work), and this is (or will be) more effective than the proposed NES.

  • The proposed NES will not achieve certainty and so will result in increased litigation.

  • The NPS for Freshwater Management will supersede the proposed NES.

  • The proposed NES will result in resources being diverted away from the establishment of environmental flows. If the proposed NES uses ecological flows, this will result in replacing the use of environmental flows, even when they are preferred.

  • The proposed NES conflicts with the NPS for Renewable Electricity Generation and the NPS for Freshwater Management.

  • The proposed NES does not provide for the Treaty of Waitangi.

  • The proposed NES does not meet its stated objectives.

Some submitters argued that the proposed NES should only exist in the short to medium term, and then an alternative NES, incorporating tangata whenua and recreational issues, should be developed.

Some submitters argued that the focus of the proposed NES is too narrow and that concentrating on ecological flows is confusing and misleading. Some felt that it should be expanded to include environmental, recreational, cultural, social, community and economic aspects, or a clear explanation provided as to how these issues were to be considered in plan-making and decision-making.

Some submissions expressed concern at the mention of trout, because it is not native to New Zealand; or concern that native species, such as eels, were not mentioned in the proposed NES. It was also argued that the proposed NES does not protect fish habitats, as it is required to do by section 7(h) of the RMA and the Conservation Act 1987.

Submitters from a range of categories considered that the proposed interim levels are too broad-brush and simplistic and cannot apply meaningfully across New Zealand, given the great variety in water body types. Some considered that the proposed levels are not precautionary enough and should be more stringent; others thought they should be higher.

It was argued by some that the proposed NES fails to recognise that sometimes natural flows are very low during dry periods, and that setting interim limits using ecological levels fails to recognise that water bodies can run dry. One submitter noted that the proposed NES needs to explain where on the water course a limit should be applied (eg, the mid-point between the mouth and the source).

3.3.1 Relationship with National Policy Statement and Resource Management Act

A number of submitters were opposed to the proposed NES because it was perceived to conflict with the NPS on Renewable Electricity Generation (and with government policy on renewable energy), which promotes hydro-electricity generation; in other words, the proposed NES will make it difficult or impossible for hydro-electricity schemes to be approved. Submitters wanted the NES to be prepared after the NPS for Freshwater Management has been completed and gazetted, because this will provide a policy basis for developing the proposed NES.

3.3.2 Effect on regional and local plans

A number of submitters were concerned that the proposed NES would require regional authorities to revisit already completed work on ecological flows and levels, introducing costs and time delays. Related to this, submitters noted potential confusion as to what levels should apply if levels have already been established (before the proposed NES) and/or they use a method not listed in the proposed NES. It was felt that the proposed NES should only apply if there was, or is, no advice in regional plans, including advice on environmental flows.

Some submitters argued that the proposed NES should require councils to at least consider applying levels while preparing their regional plans. It was suggested that the proposed NES should provide advice on ungauged streams (where no or very limited information is available), and which generally are not being used and/or are not under pressure.

3.3.3 Effect on applications

In addition to the matters raised above, a number of submitters stated that the proposed NES should not apply to stock and domestic abstraction. There was concern that the proposed NES does not provide advice for instances where current abstraction needs/takes exceed proposed levels, with the presumption that they need to be reduced accordingly.

Most energy generation and water supply companies, irrigators and other submitters who abstract and/or use water argued that existing consented operations should be exempt from interim levels. Notably, energy generation companies were concerned that approved schemes had been through complex and lengthy consenting processes, and the proposed NES offered the opportunity for review or challenge, which could unravel those consents.

Some submitters stated that the relevance of the proposed NES to the resource consent notification process (sections 93 and 94 of the RMA) is not explained.

3.3.4 Application to all rivers / water bodies

Most submitters were concerned about the scope of the proposed NES in terms of the water bodies it will apply to and what effect it would have. In general, submitters considered that the proposed NES should not apply to important water bodies because it would imply that abstraction could then occur. Also, the proposed NES (allocation) should not apply to storage bodies such as dams. As noted, there is concern that a national standard cannot be applied effectively across the entire country due to the variety in the types and quality of water bodies. Lastly, some submitters believed that the proposed NES does not allow for seasonal variation.

3.3.5 Implementation and resource costs

Some submitters were concerned about the costs associated with implementing and meeting the requirements of the proposed NES. Regional councils observed that they did not have the staff and/or skills necessary to implement the proposed NES, and considered that if it is introduced then it should be phased in with central government assistance. Others involved in making applications observed that the burden of proof (and therefore the costs) would fall on them, which would include filling information gaps on limits.

3.3.6 Climate change

Some submitters were concerned that the proposed NES does not allow for climate change, which will alter rainfalls and potentially result in longer dry periods, and hence change flows and appropriate limits within water bodies.

3.4 Process to adoption/consultation and involvement

Some submitters expressed a great deal of concern about the process for developing the proposed NES from this point on, and want further opportunity to participate. In particular, it was felt that the process does not provide the opportunity to be heard, or to appeal the proposed NES.

Notably, iwi submitters were disappointed at their lack of involvement in the process before notification, and this lack of pre-notification consultation was observed by other stakeholders. Iwi submitters were concerned about the lack of ability to negotiate environmental flows and proposed levels/limits, and argued that the proposed NES process needs to enable effective tangata whenua consultation.

Some submitters stated that notification of the discussion document does not equate to notification of a draft NES and so queried the validity of the process. There was also concern about the limited information provided in the proposed NES, which constrains people’s ability to understand the issues and respond properly.

A number of submitters (mainly from the public) indicated that they want to be involved in the development of the proposed NES document as well as with the associated methods and guidelines. It was felt that if the proposed NES is substantially revised, then a further round of notification should occur.

Two submitters noted that if there is no transitional period, there will be great deal of difficulty and economic impacts from the immediate application of the NES.

3.5 Other

A number of submissions did not fall within the identified topic areas. These generally pointed out inconsistencies in the document (notably between ecological and environmental flows). A few submitters considered the document confusing, poorly structured, containing some errors, and in need of a section with definitions or a glossary.

Other issues raised included the fundamental lack of recognition and understanding of tangata whenua and cultural values within the document, in terms of its approach, methods used, proposed limits and proposed implementation. These submissions requested an integrated approach.

Several submitters were concerned about the proposed NES reducing water supply for a variety of commercial, private and public uses.