About the Waimakariri Zone
The Waimakariri sub-region lies to the north of the Waimakariri River and extends from Pegasus Bay in the east to the Puketeraki Range in the west. In the north-west is Lees Valley with the Ashley River/Rakahuri flowing through the hills to the plains. As it flows across the plains it receives water from major tributaries including the Okuku, Makerikeri and Garry Rivers before discharging into the Ashley Estuary (Te Aka Aka). Much of the land to the east of Rangiora is reclaimed swamp that is still subject to poor drainage and occasional flooding. The rivers, streams, lagoons and wetlands have always been an important place and food basket for Tangata Whenua.
Dairy and dairy support account for approximately 16% and sheep, deer, horticulture and beef farms are 40% of the land area in the Waimakariri sub-region. A significant land use component in the Waimakariri sub-region is small block holdings (lifestyle blocks) encompassing approximately 12% of land area, which has more than doubled in the last 20 years (in both number and area). In total, there are approximately 37,000 ha of irrigated land in the Waimakariri sub-region with four irrigation schemes: Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL), Claxby Irrigation Ltd, Loburn Irrigation Company and the Moy Flat scheme.
Submissions on PC7 opened on 20 July 2019 and closed on 13 September.
DairyNZ's submission position
DairyNZ supports proposals by Environment Canterbury for dairy farmers in Waimakariri and South Canterbury to continue to reduce their nitrogen losses over the next decade.
Water quality is affected by a range of activities - including urban and lifestyle activities, dairy farming and other types of agriculture, horticulture and arable farming.
DairyNZ supports the objectives of Plan Change 7 as we believe they will help our vision to improve water quality. We recognise that dairy farmers are a key part of the solution to meeting our community’s water quality aspirations and need to be leading a community response.
Dairy farmers in Canterbury have already invested in fencing off waterways, riparian planting and implementing good management practices as part of existing Farm Environment Plans. The Farm Environment Plans farmers now have in place will continue to develop to reflect changes in best practice environmental management.
In its submission on Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, DairyNZ supported Environment Canterbury’s proposals for dairy farms to achieve a 15% reduction in nitrogen losses in Waimakariri and a 10% reduction by 2030 in the Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora zone.
DairyNZ is already working with Canterbury farmers and a number of supporting organisations to develop a range of practical options farmers can adopt to help them achieve future nitrogen loss targets.
We also recognise that further reductions in nitrogen loss will be needed on-farm after 2030. DairyNZ supports an adaptive management approach being adopted by Environment Canterbury after 2030 - where targets for nitrogen losses on farms are set based on the most recent comprehensive water quality data available.
DairyNZ supports more work being undertaken to develop robust groundwater hydrogeological modelling to provide greater certainty on the direction of groundwater flows from the Waimakariri zone. The submission also supported improving the accuracy of Overseer calculations of nitrate losses in soil and undertaking a more robust socio-economic impact assessment of future proposals.
We noted in our submission that in a number of areas where nitrate levels are modelled as increasing in the future, existing trends show that nitrate levels are declining or stable. The plan change needs to be updated to reflect the results of recent water quality monitoring data.
We would like to see a partnership approach adopted between farmers, the community, councils and water zone committees to design and implement a robust water quality monitoring regime. This would provide everyone with a good basis for making well-informed future decisions which affect us all.
You can read DairyNZ's full submission online, which has more detail on our position.
Environment Canterbury's future process
Following the close of submissions, Environment Canterbury is preparing a summary of decisions requested document. This summary of submissions will be notified shortly. The period for making a further submission will be from 18th to 29th Note: you are only allowed to make a further submission on others’ submissions if you made an original submission.
After this, a public hearing of submissions and evidence will happen. The hearing, in front of an independent hearing panel, is likely to be held during the first half of 2020.
The independent hearing panel will prepare a set of recommendations for Environment Canterbury to consider and potentially adopt as its decision.
For more information on the Plan Change process and updates, visit the Environment Canterbury website.
Key changes under Proposed Plan Change 7
Plan Change 7 splits the Waimakariri Zone into two areas, the Nitrate Priority Area (NPA) and the Runoff Zone. The NPA has been split further into five sub-areas (see map below). All the sub-areas within the NPA need to meet the following nitrogen loss reductions under the proposed plan change:
- Meet ‘baseline Good Management Practice (bGMP)’ by 2020
- Reduce nitrogen loss by 15% beyond bGMP by 2030
Beyond 2030, additional reductions are required, depending on which sub-area your farm fits into. See map below to find out which sub-area applies to you.
Outside the Nitrate Priority Area, farmers are required to carry out actions to manage run-off and sediment from their farms.
Further detail on the proposed plan change can be found here.
Map of Proposed Management Areas
Proposed Nitrate Priority Sub Areas Map
Proposed stages of reduction per sub area
Managing nitrates in Christchurch and Waimakariri aquifers
There is a connectivity between the Waimakariri and Christchurch aquifer systems and ECan is concerned that current CLWRP nutrient management rules may not provide adequate protection of Christchurch groundwater quality. The proposed plan change does not introduce a nitrate concentration limit for Christchurch’s aquifers as that will occur through a future Christchurch West Melton sub region process (scheduled for notification 2022/2023). In the Waimakariri, nitrate concentrations exceed the Maximum Acceptable Value (MAV) in the Drinking Water Standards of New Zealand (DWSNZ) in approximately 10% of private water wells and is expected to increase in the future, meaning that safe and reliable drinking water is not available for all domestic or community water supplies. The intent of PC7 is to:
- improve the availability of safe and reliable drinking water by creating a “Nitrate Priority Area”, that requires irrigation schemes and individual farming activities to reduce nitrate loss in stages over time.
- provide for a “nitrate floor” exempting low- emitting farming activities from additional stages of reduction if the reduction needed is less than 3 kgN/ha/year.
Flows and allocation
Surface water in the Waimakariri sub-region ranges from small spring-fed streams near the coast, and larger hill-fed rivers which drain the front ranges adjacent to the Ashley-Waimakariri Plains. The Waimakariri-Ashley Plain is prone to extended dry periods with high evapotranspiration, where water is abstracted from both surface water and groundwater resources for irrigation. According to ECan, the current state of the Kaiapoi, Cam, Cust, Ashley and Eyre river systems, and the many streams and creeks indicate that the current flow and allocation limits are insufficient to provide protection of in-stream biodiversity and mahinga kai. PC7 is proposing to
- Reduce over allocation by:
- Capping current allocation and prohibiting new abstraction
- Removing B allocations from spring-fed streams
- Allowing substitution of surface water and shallow groundwater takes for deep groundwater in over-allocated catchments
- Limiting water permit transfers
- Increase over time minimum flows for some rivers
- Pro-rata partial restrictions to avoid breaching minimum flow
- Review consents to implement flow and allocation regime by:
- 2027 for Ashley River and tributaries
- 2029 for Waimakariri River tributaries
- Reduce over allocation by:
New region-wide rules under PC7 are proposed:
- Prohibit farmed cattle, deer or pigs from disturbing or using the bed of lakes, rivers or permanently or intermittently flowing open
drain within specified distance of sensitive areas such as intakes for community drinking water supplies, or indigenous freshwater species habitat.
- Prohibit farmed cattle, deer or pigs from disturbing or using the bed and banks of spring-fed plains rivers.
- Require consent, as a non-complying activity, for the use and disturbance of the bed and banks of lakes, rivers that are greater than 1m wide or 100m deep, or a wetland, by intensively farmed stock. Intensively farmed stock is defined in the CLWRP as cattle or deer grazed on irrigated land or contained for break-feeding of winter feed crops; dairy cattle, including cows, whether dry or milking, and whether on irrigated land or not; or farmed pigs.
- Permit stock to use the beds of lakes, rivers or wetlands for temporary or permanent access provided the access meets standards relating to water quality and physical disturbance of the bed or banks, and provided the activity is not classified as non-complying or prohibited.
Mahinga kai and biodiversity
The quality and quantity of water in spring-fed streams does not provide for mahinga kai gathering or aquatic ecosystems, especially in the Silverstream, Cust River/Cust Main Drain, Taranaki Creek, and most of the Ashley River/Rakahuri spring-fed streams due to high nitrate (in some waterbodies), fine sediment stream bed coverage, invasive plant species, low flows and poor habitat. Draft PC7 proposes
- More FEPs for Te Aka Aka and coastal protection zone
- Mahinga kai allocation from Ashley/Rakahuri, Cam/ Ruataniwha and Silverstream
- Support for catchment restoration activities and stream augmentation
- Enable activities that maintain, restore or enhance indigenous vegetation, habitat of indigenous fauna
Permitted farming land use and consents
- Across the Waimakariri sub region a permitted farming land use does not require a resource consent but must comply with conditions in the plan
- PC7 proposes to lower the general property size for permitted farming land use from 10 ha to 5 ha
- PC7 proposes to lower the area of winter grazing that requires farming consent so that the total area of the property used for winter grazing is less than or equal to:
- 5 hectares for any property less than 100 hectares in area;
- 5% of the area of the property, for any property between 100 and 1000 hectares in area;
- 50 hectares, for any property greater than 1000 hectares in area
- PC7 proposes a common expiry date of 2037 and every 10 years thereafter for all water take, land use and irrigation scheme consents
Plan Change 2 to the Waimakariri River Regional Plan
PC2 is the first step in a move to bring all rules relating to the Waimakariri sub-region into a single planning document – the Land & Water Regional Plan (LWRP). The WRRP would continue to apply to activities within the main stem of the Waimakariri River, its upper catchment, and tributaries south of the mainstem.
Activities in the rest of the Waimakariri sub-region would instead be managed by the LWRP PC7.
For more information contact
Catchment Engagement Leader