In this section:

Proposed national environmental standard on ecological flows and water levels

Submission date: 29 August 2008
Submitted to: Ministry for the Environment

Introduction

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) welcomes this Proposed National Environmental Standard (NES) through which an environmental bottom line is clearly being signalled.

The NZCA considers the Water Programme of Action, and this Proposed NES, crucial to the sustainable management of New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems.

The NZCA does have some concerns about the scope and detail of the Proposed NES, which are identified in this submission.

The NZCA has addressed the questions posed in the discussion document but it has also raised matters not addressed in the discussion document and which it considers need attention in this proposed NES.

Context

The NZCA acknowledges that water is essential to support human life, and the economic value of water is substantial; however it is concerned that the wider intrinsic, social and cultural values are not being addressed concurrently, as these matters are at the core of conflict in society over the use of water.

Scope

The problem encountered by having a standard based on ecological flows only is that the other values that may be held in higher regard by the community will not be satisfied.  The values of freshwater ecosystems in New Zealand go beyond the ecological – they are immensely important to tangata whenua, for recreation, and are widely appreciated for their landscape and amenity values by the wider population.

The NZCA understands that an NES addressing these wider issues is being scoped, and it is the NZCA’s view that it is feasible and practicable to introduce additional standards addressing the methods to be used to assess recreational and landscape values, and that this should be done in the next 12 months. Consultation with tangata whenua on a standard methodological approach for the consideration of values of importance to them should also be occurring concurrently.

The lack of guidance on the weighting of ecological values, and social (including recreational), cultural and economic values, will limit the effectiveness of the NES, as this is the most contentious aspect of minimum flows.

Rivers are entities that need to be addressed as wholes rather than in parts. Management of rivers needs to be viewed in a far more holistic way. The NZCA considers that the only durable and meaningful approach to assess and manage all of the relevant values of water, is to take a holistic catchment management approach.

The NZCA believes that this should be addressed in the forthcoming National Policy Statement.

Discussion Document Support or Oppose

The NZCA supports the Proposed NES in principle.

Objectives

The NZCA supports the proposed objectives in principle as they are preferable to the status quo.

However, an additional objective is requested:
“ to provide national direction that is efficient and avoids the costs to the community of ongoing litigation.”

In practice, assessing appropriate water flows in individual rivers and streams, and reaches thereof, is a huge and expensive task that individual councils may lack the resources to address.

Question 1 – Problem statements and issues

“Do you agree with the problem statements and the three key problems that were identified as benefiting from national direction?”

The NZCA agrees with the identified problem statements.

However the NZCA considers that there are additional problems which include:

(i) The definitions of environmental and ecological flows.
See Question 8 for discussion on this point.

(ii) Lack of certainty as to whether or not plans which have used some of the methods proposed have resulted in sustainable minimum flows. Due to a paucity of monitoring and scientific testing, it is not known whether the methods proposed have resulted in maintaining ecosystem function.

(iii) There are existing consents which exceed the proposed standard, some of which have very long terms, or no finite term.

(iv) There does not seem to have been any consideration as to whether Maori may have customary rights, or the implication of the proposed standard on any such rights or values of importance to Maori.

(v) Community involvement in plan making processes is not based on a level playing field.

Question 2 - Assessment and evaluation of alternatives

“Do you consider that all available options have been covered? Do you have comments on the assessment and evaluation of alternatives?”

Another alternative would be for the NES to apply generally until such time as catchment management plans incorporating minimum flows and levels covering all environmental values, have been developed.

This is the approach favoured by the NZCA.

Question 3 - The need for interim limits

“Do you support the need for, and introduction of, interim limits set through a national environmental standard?”

NZCA agrees with the need for the introduction of limits through a national standard, but is less certain as to whether these limits should be interim until modified by local decision-making. National guidance is necessary on how non-ecological values should be incorporated into minimum flow regimes in plans to avoid dominance by the more powerful commercial user groups in the community compared to the majority not seeking to use water for private profit.

The NZCA considers that the interim levels should apply universally until such time as all aspects of environmental flows (including, social and cultural), have been determined based on national guidance to be provided in the forthcoming National Policy Statement.

Question 4 - The interim limits

“Do you have comments on the numbers for the interim flows and water levels? Are there sufficient divisions of rivers and streams and groundwater systems?”
(i) The discussion paper (para 6.1) states that the objective is to have clear environmental limits in place and improve practice in ecological assessment, and states also that ‘the major benefits of the proposed standards will therefore be improved environmental outcomes’. However, the outcomes depend heavily on whether the interim flow limits are appropriate, and this cannot be assumed.

We are uncertain that the existing methods for determining ecological flows are as well developed as the discussion paper claims; in many instances we don’t actually know enough about indigenous fishes to reliably assess abstraction impacts. There is a concern that protecting introduced salmonids can become a default for protecting native fish because so much more is known about salmonids based on extensive overseas work. Where the values come from is not explained and rather look like guesses or compromises. A conservative approach should be taken until much more is known.

As a general principle, the NZCA considers that ecological flows should be precautionary and not fall below the naturally occurring low level, currently assessed as mean annual low flow (MALF). In this respect the standard is opposed.

Notwithstanding the actual minimum level allowed for a particular waterway, the NES should provide for sufficient variability to effectively achieve ecological function. The minimum flows proposed, in failing to address duration, timing etc, in effect allow sustained minimum levels well below natural variation.

NZCA understands that the levels proposed in the NES are based on a healthy waterbody subject to minimal impacts. In reality, most freshwater bodies have been modified and are degraded to some degree (e.g. loss of riparian shading vegetation), and this must be taken into account. This is another reason why levels below MALF should not be allowed.

The effects of climate change do not seem to have been considered in formulating the proposed standard. Water temperature, in particular, is critical for aquatic life. Relying on MALF as an ecological baseline could put ecosystems at risk. MALF may, in drought-prone areas, trend downwards as climate change becomes apparent.

(ii) In general, the NZCA considers that the standard has been pitched too low, especially for rivers and streams with a flow below 5m3/sec, and braided rivers.
Braided rivers are particularly vulnerable to reduced flows, and should be specifically addressed, distinct from single channel rivers.

We are concerned that where minimum flows are set they will become actual flows for extended periods.

The NZCA considers that the life supporting capacity of a river at its Mean Annual Low Flow is already reduced and that there should be no abstraction beyond this level.

However the standard should contain sufficient flexibility to enable a higher allocation during flood flows.

(iii) Provision should be made for wetland enhancement. The proposed wording would prevent this.

(iv) It is also considered that dune lakes should be distinguished from other lakes. The NES should limit takes from these lakes to those permitted takes for domestic use authorised under s 14 of the RMA.

(v) The allocation for deep water aquifers at 35% of the recharge, seems to lack justification, especially as the risk of extraction of more than 25% falls within the range of what is described elsewhere in the technical papers as posing a high risk of hydrological alteration (p76).

(vi) The standard should apply universally i.e. where a regional plan contains a default minimum flow for waterbodies for which specific levels have not been set according to the methods in this Standard, the NES should replace that default level.

(vii) The NZCA considers it inappropriate to include the existing allocation in the standard. This will have the effect of entrenching existing use, regardless of whether it is sustainable, and create a more difficult situation for addressing over-allocation.

In Summary, the NZCA recommends a conservative, approach. It considers that the default standard should be set at a higher level, and that any alternative limits set in plans must allow for considerations of water quality and natural flow variability (see Question 8).

Question 5 - Time bound

“The proposal does not set a time limit for how long the interim limits will apply. There is some concern that this will not encourage catchment-specific or regional default flows to be set. Do you think the interim flow and water levels should apply for only a limited period? “

As the Proposed NES does not incorporate other values such as cultural and recreational values, it is important that the proposed minimum levels are interim until such time as the additional NES incorporating such values is in place.

The NES should require regional councils to establish a programme for catchment management plans, with clear priority to catchments which are over allocated. Where overallocation has occurred, plans should be reviewed within 3 years.

If the methodological approach taken is based on values i.e. low, medium, high, it is logical that priority for plans will be to set minimum flows and allocations at an early stage for high and medium value waterbodies.

Question 6 - Inclusion of existing consents within allocation limits

“As currently structured, the interim allocation limits include all existing consents. Implementation of the limits will, therefore, not require claw-back of existing consents to meet the interim allocation limit. Claw-back is an option allowed when an environmental flow is set through a regional plan. How do you think the situation, where the amount of water allocated to existing consents exceeds the numeric interim limit, should be addressed?”

Firstly, the standard should delete the “existing use” allocation from the Standard.
If existing uses are the baseline, over-allocation will never be addressed.

“Over-allocation” should be defined as “where current allocation exceeds the specified default national standard”.

Secondly, the standard should specify the process for “claw-back” i.e. s 128 (ba) of the RMA specifies that a consent authority may review the conditions of a resource consent when national environmental standards have been made; also s 43 A (1) (f). The NZCA understands there is political support for introducing a claw-back.

The NES should specify that, where allocation exceeds the NES, it is mandatory for all consents to be reviewed within 3 years.

Subsequent questions arise as to if/when this should be applied to

  • regional plans that already have minimum flows and maximum allocations, but these allocations may vary from the national standard,
  • regional plans that have used methods similar or different to those in the national standard.

It is the NZCA’s view that where flows and allocations have been set using methods different to those in the standard, and have resulted in lower minimum flows than would have be set using the NES standard method, those plans should be reviewed according to the standard methods, within 3 years.

Question 7 - The need for an NES on the selection of technical methods

“Do you support the aim to provide consistency in the selection of methods for assessing ecological values? Does consistency need to be provided in a national environmental standard or would guidance documents be sufficient?”

The NZCA supports a national standard in the selection of methods, for consistency, efficiency, and to reduce litigation on these matters.

Question 8 - The approach outlined in the technical document

“Do you have any comments on the approach outlined in the technical document Draft guidelines for the selection of methods to determine ecological flows and water levels?”
The question of methods is not quite as well developed as the document suggests, hence the ‘considerable debate’.

The NZCA agrees in principle with basing the approach to be used on the degree of hydrological alteration, risk and significance of values etc. However the detail of implementation is questioned. For example, the statement on p52 that “the risks of deleterious effects [of changing water levels] are greater in shallower than in deep-water wetlands”, does not seem to be reflected in Table 3.4 p50.

When the degree of hydrological alteration is being considered, this should be a cumulative assessment based on the sum of all existing alteration from the natural state, not just the percentage change proposed by a single proposed application.

Much more guidance is needed in Section 2.1.1 p7 Methods Document on establishing significance (low/medium/high), otherwise this will lead to more litigation as parties will seek the use of methods which favour their desired outcomes. At the Roadshow, the scientists seemed to assume that waterbodies in conservation areas had a “high” value, yet practice indicates this is given little weight e.g. the Mokihinui hydro dam proposal.

A corollary to this question is should the degree of impairment define the value e.g. if a river is degraded e.g. the Manawatu River, does that mean it has less value and a greater quantity of water may be extracted? The guidance in Part II of the RMA is that life-supporting capacity and remediation should be provided for.

More attention needs to be paid to water management practices upstream that result in river/lake outlets becoming closed to the sea.  This has significant ecological impacts for migratory fishes, which comprise approximately half of all freshwater fish species present in our rivers and lakes.

Another issue not specifically addressed is that some waters have no history of flow gauging to form the basis for decisions on minimum flows, and how many years’ records are to be considered acceptable? The acceptability of councils applying the Standard methods to one waterbody or catchment and then extrapolating the outcomes to waterbodies and catchments with similar physical characteristics to date this has been a relatively common practice, and its continued use needs endorsement or otherwise within this standard.

Other reservations about the approaches proposed include:

(i) Confusion in the use of the terms ‘environmental flows’ and ‘ecological flows’.

The definition of ‘environmental flows’ in the Discussion Document refers to flows encompassing the range of values, including social and cultural. However, usually ‘environmental flows’ are defined in the ecological sense only e.g. “Environmental flows provide a flow regime for the river corridor (i.e. the channel, the floodplain and the transitional upland fringe) and receiving waters (e.g. lake, coastal zone), for the purpose of maintaining ecosystem structure (e.g. wetlands, oxbow lakes) and processes (e.g. nutrient cycling; sediment flux)”.

The Discussion Document defines ‘ecological flows’ as “the flows and water levels required in a water body to provide the ecological function of the flora and fauna present within that water body and its margins”. However, the level of ecological function is not made explicit – ideally, optimum habitat conditions, which have a low level of risk, should be provided for. The limitation in this definition to the species present implies that there is an acceptable level of ecological disturbance based on former impacts. In addition, ecological function is not fully provided for, as the NES does not address water quality, the degree of impairment, range of flow, flow variability, and duration of low flows, all of which are vital to ecosystem function.

The NZCA considers that the definition of ‘ecological flows’ should encompass the parameters required to maintain ecosystem integrity.

(ii)  There seems to be an assumption that some habitat loss is acceptable.
NZCA considers that methodologies should not be based on “lowest common denominator”. Part of the scheme of the RMA is to provide for enhancement (i.e. ‘remedying’ in section 5). Where biodiversity is low, there may be a myriad of reasons why this is so. Setting flows based on existing flora and fauna may “lock-in” a management regime that precludes future restoration to a former more natural and healthier state with different biodiversity and other values.

Therefore minimum flows should be set conservatively. Allowing the reduction of smaller rivers and streams to below MALF (a minimum hydrological parameter) is not conservative (especially if/when applications may be granted to exceed this).

(iii) The problem of having multiple approaches to choose from is that this is still likely to result in litigation. The NZCA suggests that the NES specify the primary method(s) to be used, then specify additional secondary methods with recommendations as to when they should be applied e.g. temperature, dissolved oxygen and periphyton models should be applied in all cases for rivers and streams. The connectivity of wetlands with ground or surface waters, connectivity of shallow groundwater with streams, and provisions for fish passage should also always be assessed, and habitat analysis should always be carried out for medium and high value lakes. Flow variability analysis should always be undertaken for medium and high value waterbodies (noting, however, that it is not clear what is specifically envisaged as this does not seem to be described in the Methods Description section 2.5).

The NZCA is aware of criticisms in some of the models proposed. The approach of setting minimum flows based on the presumed habitat requirements of a few species determined without consideration of their whole lifecycle and biological activity is to be questioned. IFIM applies to only the limited number of species for which habitat characteristics/flow suitability curves have been developed. The extent to which the habitat suitability curves for native species applies across a range of different river types is uncertain. We rather doubt that there has been enough testing and replication of these curves for native fishes and are uncertain whether enough is known about the ecology and life histories of some native fishes to institute such methods.

Moreover, it is unclear whether IFIM principles, developed for mid-water, large, free-swimming species like trout, can be satisfactorily applied to within-substrate species like most native fishes. There is debate about the application of habitat suitability curves for fish like brown and rainbow trout, which are amongst the most intensively studied of all freshwater fishes, globally, and the implication is that with much sparser information on native fishes, the outcome is even less certain.

Another well recognised concern is that IFIM applies to only a limited part of the target fish species’ ecologies – those parts of the species’ lives that take place in the channel being studied, whereas some of the controls on fish abundance are determined by conditions occurring elsewhere, as for example different spawning habitats, or ease of access for migratory fish species. For example, habitat preferences of a species may change with age/size, or may change seasonally, or even diurnally, with different habitats used by day or night, or for different ecological/behavioural activities/functions. Food availability and productivity is another example, of the sorts of needs that may change with flow. Considerable effort has been invested in generating habitat suitability functions that explore the role of IFIM in predicting the implications of flow variability for food production.

Another important element that needs to be taken into account in IFIM is natural flow variability, and determining the optimum flows for support of given species needs to take account of the value of freshes in contributing to fish population health, the embeddedness of the substrate that might derive from lack of floods, leading to other impacts on fish and invertebrate populations.

It is not necessary to use IFIM as a stand-alone approach, and there is no reason why it cannot be integrated with other evaluations of the impacts of proposed management regimes, to attain a level of synthesis with other values. Other effects/protocols can be assessed/considered in parallel to IFIM protocols, and should be if we want to be ‘holistic’.

It seems generally accepted that the level of monitoring required to validate the approach and methods has not occurred. Consent monitoring is being relied on to validate the approach used in a particular case. Monitoring is crucial but not specifically provided for in the standard. There is no clarity about if, or when methods are to be reviewed, or who enforces their application.

(iv) The NZCA is aware that internationally, other methods are being applied, where a more holistic approach is taken, more consistent with an ecological definition of environmental flows incorporated e.g. range of variability analysis, which enable the duration of low flows to be considered. Certainly, our plea is for broader, catchment-scale evaluations but that need not be an explicit alternative to IFIM – some kind of integrated approach is conceivable.

(v) The NZCA has considerable reservations that the expertise is available to allow agencies like regional councils to rigorously apply these methods, or, even if this expertise was available, whether the ecological knowledge is available to apply the methods when it comes to determining the impacts on native fish species of the effects of water management practices. There is a danger that there not sufficient experience available to apply what are complex scientific and statistical methods to the question of stream flow management, especially when it comes to the essential ecological issues relating to in-river values (fish and fisheries, food production and so on).

As there is limited technical capability in freshwater science in New Zealand, and implementation of assessment methods and models may be poor or uneven, more prescription in methodology is justified.

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Question 9 - The inclusion of new methods if they become available

“How should new and emerging methods be incorporated into the process outlined in the proposed Standard?”

The proposed NES has excluded methods not validated in New Zealand. Yet some methods currently approved of in New Zealand seem no more scientifically robust than alternatives in current use overseas.

If approved methods are limited to those currently in use in New Zealand, new methods will not be able to be validated. This is a Catch-22 situation. If a council wishes to ‘test’ recent internationally adopted approaches, it will be required to apply this on top of two other methods, hardly likely to be approved of by ratepayers.

FORST funding for implementing the Water Programme of Action should be committed to achieving validation of holistic methods, now in routine use overseas, and provision made for the schedule of methods in the Standard to be amended when more reliable or effective methods are agreed to by the Government.

Funding should also be made available for monitoring the implementation of the NES and a structured monitoring programme put in place.

Question 10 - NES approach to breaches

“How do you think the national environmental standard should address applications for resource consents that breach the interim limits?”

The NZCA considers it vitally important that the NES address breaches of the standard.

It is difficult to see how breaches of minimum flows can be justified, if the minimum flow has been set at a sustainable level.

If applications can be made to breach the interim minimum flow, this means that minimum flows will continue to be argued on a case by case basis, defeating the purpose of having a standard. This is sometimes referred to as the salami effect: over time successive administrators each enable what they consider a minor loss or degradation which over time amounts to significant degradation. This process amounts to societal forgetfulness.

Experience in other areas of resource management (e.g. marine farms in the Marlborough Sounds) has shown that Non-complying activity status will not necessarily result in expected outcomes.  Notwithstanding this experience, it is considered that all breaches should, as a matter of course, be considered non-complying, including breaches of minimum flows and allocations already established in existing plans that have not used the methods in the Standard.

This would establish national consistency. Where the policy framework is felt to be inadequate, councils will have to amend their plans accordingly.

Therefore it is the NZCA’s view that only existing users should be able to apply to breach the NES, providing that they are for the existing level of use only (as opposed to an increase) by that consent holder (RMA s 104 (2A)). This does not presume that consent will be given for the amount currently being taken; merely that an application can be made. New users should not be able to apply for amounts that would breach the standard.

As discussed under Question 8, the NZCA considers that the standard should not ‘protect’ existing allocations, and measures should be included for “clawback”. In over-allocated catchments, it may be necessary to achieve this through reductions on a pro rata basis.

Breaches should be notified applications.

There may be a need to review s 104 (2A) of the RMA to facilitate clawback of over-allocation.

Question 11 - Application of the NES to existing and replacement consents

“How should the national environmental standard apply to existing and replacement resource consents in each of the situations outlined in Table 2?”

This question is really about whether the levels and allocations set in existing plans are appropriate. If the methods in the Standard have not been used in setting the levels and allocations, the plan should be reviewed within 3 years.

If existing consents in over-allocated catchments are not affected by this standard unless there is a plan change, a major benefit of this NES will be lost.

Question 12 - Benefits and costs of preferred option?

“Have the range of benefits and costs of the proposed national environmental standard been identified? Are the costs and benefits identified in this document accurate? Do you have other information you would like to see included in the cost-benefit analysis that will occur after submissions are received and analysed?”

Some of the actions in Table 4 which are identified as costs of the NES are costs that will be incurred sooner or later by regional councils in any case, so they cannot be specifically attributed to the NES, e.g. regional council assessments of highly allocated catchments.

The costs for consent applicants and the public do not include the costs of appeals, which can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

The assumption that there will be 1000 new consents applied for each year is astounding. As these consents are likely to be in areas where primary production and population is already concentrated, this is somewhat alarming and raises questions about sustainability.

The NZCA is also interested in the assumption that all consents exceeding environmental flows and water levels will be publicly notified. In our experience this is not necessarily the case.

Question 13 - Quantification and analysis

“Do you have any comment on the assumptions used in the analysis? Do you have any comment on the partial quantification of costs outlined in this section? Do you have information that would be useful for the full analysis?”

The partial quantification of costs creates a somewhat unbalanced impression. Nevertheless, if even a partial quantification of environmental benefits was undertaken (and admittedly this is an inexact science), it is considered that this would illustrate the overall benefit of the NES unequivocally.

Other Matters Not Included in the Questions

Exceptions – Where a Minimum Flow is not appropriate (Section 5.3.1 p30)

(i) For water bodies with high levels of protection e.g. within public conservation lands, private covenanted areas, water conservation orders or named in rules or schedules for specific protection, criteria should be included to ensure that any allocation is consistent with the level of protection, conservation status etc.

(ii) Uses permitted under s 14
See discussion below for permitted domestic and stock water usage.

Scope of this Proposed Standard

The NZCA considers that there are a number of issues requiring detailed national guidance that should be included in this standard for timeliness and efficiency:

(i) Commitment to develop an NES for recreational methods and an NES for landscape methods.

(ii) The NES needs to address consents with no finite term or minimum flow.
Throughout the country there are numerous examples. If the NES requires all consents which breach the standard to be reviewed, it should be made clear that the term, as well as the allocation, can be amended.

There may well be cases of consents which do comply with the standard, but have no finite term. For fairness and efficiency, these consents should be given a finite end date. Such consents may have “booked up” water, denying councils the power to allocate water to other users.

(iii) National consistency

Minimum Flows
The question as to whether the minimum flows specified in existing plans are acceptable has been discussed above.

Consistent Definitions
E.g. “consumptive use” (Footnote 5 p6 and Appendix 1 of Discussion Document) is defined differently in the Discussion Document and the technical paper pp9-10. Some councils’ policy approach is based on the assumption that dams and diversions are non-consumptive uses.  This interpretation is not supported.

Guidance on s14 exemptions
National Guidance is needed on this. The growth of rural subdivisions and dairy herd size, mean that it is no longer appropriate to extract water on a permitted basis from some localities e.g. where multiple households/properties are drawing water from small streams, the cumulative effect can be significant. It is simply not reasonable to allow water for consumption of 800-1000 cow herds to be permitted activities. Economic growth has outstripped the RMA’s ability to be ‘fit for purpose’ on this matter.

The Proposed Standard could define

  • what constitutes “reasonable domestic needs” e.g. x m3/person/day
  • what constitutes “reasonable needs of an individual’s animals for drinking water” e.g. x m3/specified animal {lactating cow/beef cow/sheep/deer/goats}/day, with a maximum per property

and require such takes under s14 to be notified to the local authority of water being taken so that appropriate monitoring can be undertaken.

Guidance on mitigation
Some regional councils consider that mitigation for water abstraction is not required, and there is no nationally consistent approach. A National Standard could give guidance on this e.g. use of shelter belts, riparian planting, night irrigation etc.

Guidance on decision-making
It is expected that policy matters underlying many of the issues raised above, will be dealt with in the forthcoming National Policy Statement e.g. the types of policy frameworks necessary to support non-complying status for abstraction applications breaching minimum flows and allocations.

The NZCA has real concerns that local plan making through community processes can override or mis-apply the NES. This is because the “community” includes major extractors, who can (and do) pressure councils to reduce ecologically minimum flows for economic reasons, especially for existing uses.

Policy frameworks need to be put in place to ensure that the range of community values is given due consideration in the setting of environmental flows, and that this NES is not be used to prevent higher minimum flows being determined when those other values are taken into account.

Future Actions

The NZCA accepts that there is still an extensive work programme for the Water Programme of Action. The NZCA’s advice is that priority actions include those points raised above that have not been included in the Proposed NES, followed by:

  • Monitoring guidance
  • Standardised methods for measuring groundwater recharge
  • Effects of climate change

“Any changes you would like made to the proposed national environmental standard as detailed in the discussion document”

The following summarises the changes the NZCA has sought in its comments above:

  1. Include an additional objective
    “ to provide national direction that is efficient and avoids the costs to the community of ongoing litigation.”

      Include additional problem statements

      • There is a lack of certainty as to whether plans which have used some of the methods proposed have resulted in sustainable minimum flows.
      • There are existing consents which exceed the proposed standard, some of which have very long terms, or no finite term.
      • consideration as to whether Maori may have customary rights or the implication of the Proposed Standard on any such rights values of importance to Maori.

  2. Make a commitment to prepare an NES for social and cultural values.
  3. Define ecological flows to encompass the parameters required to maintain ecosystem integrity.
  4. Include another alternative for the NES to not be interim pending further local decision-making but to apply generally until such time as the full range of values is considered on a catchment-wide basis.
  5. Delete reference to the existing allocation in the standard.
  6. Set ecological flows at a level no lower than the naturally occurring low level, currently assessed as mean annual low flow (MALF). A specified allocation will provide a degree of flow-sharing but flushing flows also need to be specified as well as a maximum duration that the minimum flow can be maintained as a result of abstraction (as opposed to any extended natural drought effects).
  7. Reconsider levels for rivers and streams, braided rivers, dune lakes and deep aquifers and enable a higher allocation during flood flows.
  8. Provide for wetland enhancement.
  9. Apply the standard universally i.e. where a regional plan contains a default minimum flow for waterbodies for which specific levels have not been set according to the methods in this Standard, and are lower than the Standard, the NES should replace that default level.
  10. Require councils to review plans within 3 years where allocation in catchment exceeds the standard or where the setting of limits in plans was not done using methods specified in the standard.
  11. Define Overallocation as “where current allocation exceeds the specified default national standard”.
  12. Specify that, where allocation exceeds the NES, it is mandatory for all consents to be reviewed within 3 years.
  13. Require staged introduction of catchment management plans with clear priorities.
  14. Include methods that are being applied internationally, including those where a wider range of values are incorporated.
  15. Include cumulative modification when considering risk.
  16. Provide more guidance on establishing significance (low/medium/high) of a waterbody.
  17. Take a more prescriptive approach to methods: require that temperature, dissolved oxygen and periphyton models should be applied in all cases. The connectivity of wetlands with ground or surface waters, connectivity of shallow groundwater with streams, and provisions for fish passage should also always be assessed, and habitat analysis should always be carried out for medium and high value lakes. Flow variability analysis should always be undertaken for medium and high value waterbodies.
  18. Specify that for existing uses all breaches are to be considered non-complying, including breaches of minimum flows and allocations already established in existing plans providing that they are for no more than the existing level of use or less by that consent holder. Breaches for new uses should not be permitted.
  19. Applications to breach low-flows must be notified.
  20. Require all consents to be reviewed within 3 years if they breach the standard or if the levels and allocations set in existing plans have not been arrived at using methods in the Standard.
  21. Initiate research on validation of habitat models and holistic methods.
  22. Provide criteria for exceptions where a minimum flow is not appropriate.
  23. Include a timeframe for all consents with no finite term or minimum flow to be reviewed.
  24. Include a Definition of “consumptive use”.
  25. Include guidance on s14 exemptions - define

    • what constitutes “reasonable domestic needs” e.g. x m3/person/day
    • what constitutes “reasonable needs of an individual’s animals for drinking water” e.g. x m3/specified animal {lactating cow/beef /cow/sheep/deer/goats}/day with a maximum per property

    and require such takes under s14 to be notified to the local authority of water being taken so that appropriate monitoring can be undertaken.
  26. For water bodies with a high level of protection, including those passing through public conservation land and covenanted private land, the criteria should require that any allocation be consistent with the level and status of protection and maintenance of the values protected.
  27. Monitor the implementation of the NES.
  28. Include in the Work Programme:

    • Introduction of additional standards addressing the methods to be used to assess recreational and landscape values, and that this should be done in the next 12 months.
    • Consultation with tangata whenua on a standard methodological approach to consideration of values of importance to Maori.
    • Guidance for monitoring to ensure environmental flows are sustainable.
    • Standardised methods for measuring groundwater recharge.
    • Consideration of effects of climate change.

The decision you would like the Minister for the Environment to make:

The NZCA would like the Minister’s decision to reflect the points it has made.

About the submitter

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) is a statutory body established by section 6A of the Conservation Act 1987. The functions of the NZCA are centred on policy and planning which impact on the administration of conservation areas managed by the Department of Conservation, and the investigation of any conservation matter it considers is of national importance. The NZCA has the power to advocate its interests at any public forum and in any statutory planning process. Members of the NZCA are appointed by the Minister of Conservation on the nomination or recommendation of four specified bodies (4 members), after consultation with three specified Ministers of the Crown (5 members) and after the receipt of public nominations (4 members). This process ensures that a wide range of perspectives contribute to the advice provided, the decisions made, and the advocacy of the NZCA.

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Contacts

New Zealand Conservation Authority
PO Box 10420
Wellington 6143
Telephone: +64 4 471 3289
Fax: +64 4 381 3057
Email: nzca@doc.govt.nz