Saturday, April 20, 2024

New Environment Canterbury rules to improve water quality

Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury) has approved new rules to streamline the consents process and strengthen restrictions on some activities to improve water quality across significant parts of the region.

Bundled together in a suite of amendments to the Land and Water Regional Plan, the Council approved the changes during its meeting this week.

As well as making Plan Change 7 to the Land and Water Regional Plan (Land and Water Plan) partially operative from 1 September 2023, it also agreed to make Plan Change 2 to the Waimakariri River Regional Plan fully operative.

Environment Canterbury Deputy Chair, Councillor 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,” he said.

As a result of extensive work by staff working closely with the Ōrāri Temuka Ōpihi Pareora and Waimakariri water zone committees, and with input from the wider community, key changes include:

  • 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 – and restricting activities in order to protect them;
  • 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;
  • a requirement to exclude stock from a wider range of waterbodies.

Deputy Chair Pauling said it had been a huge 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 last few years, with all but one being resolved – so 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 Land and Water Regional Plan (Land and Water Plan) is Environment Canterbury’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, the Council said in a statement.

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 Land and Water Regional Plan) applies to the management of land and freshwater resources in the Waimakariri sub-region.

Importantly, the changes recognise and incorporate the community’s aspirations for water in the area covered by the Plan, said Councillor Pauling.

“As a key priority, Environment Canterbury 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 NPSFW 2020,” he said.

“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 and represents real and positive progress.”

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