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FAQs - Consent requirements and conditions

What requirements will there be on a granted consent?

Surface water and groundwater takes over 50 cubic metres per day will require a meter and records to be kept at least weekly. In some situations takes with smaller volumes will also require a meter.

Surface water takes will require a riparian vegetation management plan, which involves fencing and planting the stream from which you take water on your property.

All consents need leak detection mechanisms in place for the water supply (reticulated) network detailing with the water taken.
There will also be provisions for water shortage conditions requiring you to decrease your take to 85 per cent of the consented volume in water-short times.

These are the conditions that are generally expected to be imposed, but some unique situations may see further conditions included.

Will I need to install a water meter?

If you are taking more than 50 cubic metres per day you will need to install a meter. In some situations, takes with smaller volumes may also require a meter. This includes any water you are taking for stock drinking from the same source. Some other takes might require a water meter, for example, if you’re taking a large proportion of the stream.

A water meter is a valuable tool in understanding and managing your water use, including leak detection. You may wish to consider installing a meter even if it is not required by consent.

What records will I need to keep?

Farmers with a consent requiring that a meter is installed will most likely be required to collect weekly meter readings and to submit these twice a year to Waikato Regional Council.

We will monitor farms and this will involve viewing the meter, however it won’t be read like your power meter, rather we’ll likely just check that the meter is functioning correctly and is in line with your records.

Meter readings for your water take can be kept on paper, on a spreadsheet, through a data logger or telemetered directly to Waikato Regional Council. It is expected that the majority of these dairy shed water takes will simply require that paper records are submitted, though in unique circumstances more may be required. 

You may wish to consider keeping your records in a spreadsheet for your own ease in calculating weekly and average daily volumes. Additionally, you may find installing a data logger is an effective way to keep your records without having to remember to visit the meter each week.  Click here for more information on water use records.

What’s this I hear about having to fence and plant my stream?

If you take water from surface water (stream, spring, river, creek, drain) you will likely need a riparian vegetation management plan. This will apply for the entire length on your property of the stream from which you take water (or an “offset” stream if appropriate).

You will need to fence the stream within three years of obtaining consent. You will then need to progressively plant it, mainly with natives. You will have the entire duration of the consent to do this, which will normally be 15 years.  Some farms who take from surface water may not need to provide a riparian vegetation management plan, in particular those farms where the catchment is not at a high level of allocation.

It is worth keeping these requirements in mind as you go about any planned fencing or planting of your waterways, particularly those required by your milk supplier (e.g. Fonterra).

Groundwater takes do not need to have a riparian vegetation management plan.

How will farmers determine leakage?

Most farmers will have their existing ways of determining what leakage might be occurring on their farm. In many instances this will be related to water pressure, unusual pump activity, wet or green patches etc. Other systems may have automatic alarms or other hi-tech solutions. A water meter is an excellent tool in managing the water resource efficiently.

Any water take consent will ask farmers what their leak detection mechanisms are to ensure farmers are aware that this is part of good management of the physical resource they are using. It is not intended to be a complicated regime of checks and requirements, rather it is to ensure the resource is managed and valued on farm.

DairyNZ have some excellent resources to help farmers with managing water in their Smart Water Use programme. You can find them at

How long will consent duration be? How often will I have to apply for a consent?

Most consents granted will have a term of 15 years. You will need to reapply for your consent at least 6 months before your consent expires. Therefore you will only need to go through this process around once every 15 years. In some unique situations a duration shorter than this might be granted, however if this looks to be the case Waikato Regional Council staff will discuss this with you.

What do water shortage restrictions mean?

The Waikato Regional Plan is very clear that all surface water takes for animal welfare and sanitation, including shed wash down and milk cooling water, and all permitted and s14(3)(b) RMA takes must include water shortage restrictions.

The plan states that these takes will need to reduce to 85 per cent of the net daily take rate (averaged over two days) 10 days after the minimum flows in the stream have been reached. These minimum flows occur, on average, once every five years. Where the minimum flow has been occurring for 10 consecutive days, the water restrictions will apply to all dairy shed water takes, as well as stock watering and domestic supply takes.

In reality, the minimum flows are usually reached in the stream following a prolonged period of drought on the land. Many farmers may find that by the time minimum flows are reached, they have already reduced milk production or cow numbers at this time, due to the effects of the drought. Shed water use is therefore expected to also reduce. The last time minimum flows were reached in most streams was the 2007/08 summer period.

At present, there are no water shortage restrictions universally imposed on groundwater takes. However if your groundwater take has a direct impact on stream flow, particularly during periods of low flow, you may find specific restrictions placed on your consent. These are likely to mirror the requirements of the surface water restrictions, but will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Does my surface water intake structure comply with regulations?

Your intake structure may be able to be used without the need to get a separate consent to install the structure in the waterway (a permitted activity). However, it does need to meet certain standards. All surface water intake structures need to meet the following basic requirements:

  • Must be screened (see further detail below for screen sizes).
  • The pipe diameter must not exceed 300mm.
  • The intake velocity cannot exceed 0.3 m/s.
  • The intake structure cannot extend for more than 10 per cent of the total stream/river width (up to a maximum of 5 metres).
  • If the river is wider than 10 metres, you must have a sign alerting river users of the intake’s presence.
  • Must be maintained in a structurally sound condition and free of debris.
  • Any erosion resulting from the intake structure must be fixed.
  • It must allow for the safe passage of fish upstream and downstream.

The minimum size of your intake structure’s screen depends on the waterway classification of your stream. You can find this out by calling us on 0800 800 402. The required screen sizes are:

  • If your waterway doesn’t fall into any of the categories below, it needs a screen that is:
    • 3mm mesh size diameter at locations less than 100 metres above sea level
    • 5mm mesh size diameter at locations greater than 100 metres above sea level.
  •  If your waterway is classified as a “significant Indigenous fishery and fish habitat”, it needs a screen that is:
    • 1.5mm mesh size diameter at locations less than 100 metres above sea level
    • 3 mm mesh size diameter at locations greater than 100 metres above sea level. 
  •  If your waterway is “significant trout fishery and trout habitat”, it needs a screen that is:
    • 3mm mesh size diameter at ALL locations.
  • If your waterway has more than one classification, you need to use the most restrictive screen size (i.e. the smallest mesh size diameter).

A condition of any surface water take consent granted will include these requirements, and if you are audited in the future you will need to show you meet these requirements.

I have less than 215 cows – do I need a consent?

If you are taking less than 15 cubic metres per day for use in your dairy shed, then you may be able to rely on the permitted activity rules to take water without needing a resource consents. A permitted activity is something that you can do without needing to obtain the permission or consent from Waikato Regional Council, provided you meet all the conditions of that rule.

Based on the guideline value of 70 litres per cow per day for use in the dairy shed, we expect that herds of less than 215 cows will be taking less than 15 cubic metres per day, but you would be wise to check your water use and ensure you’re taking less than this value.

For surface water takes, if they were existing prior to 15 October 2008 or if they are from a catchment that is not fully allocated then, subject to the condition of the rule, the water take may be a permitted activity. New water takes in fully or over-allocated catchments require a consent.
Groundwater takes of less than 15 cubic metres per day can also be a permitted activity, again subject to the conditions of that rule. This is not influenced by the surrounding surface water allocation status.

The “permitted” volumes of water are in addition to the water you take for stock drinking and domestic supply (see also FAQ section on ‘Stock and household water takes’).

I have a herd size larger than 215, but I have metered my water use and I know that I use less than 15 cubic metres per day. Do I still need a consent?

If you are comfortable that you use less than 15 cubic metres per day, then you don’t need a consent (so long as you meet the conditions of the permitted activity rule).

However, remember that you may be asked to prove how you know you’re using less than 15 cubic metres per day. Keeping water use records may be one way to demonstrate this.

You may wish to consider the impacts of only having access to 15 cubic metres per day for use in the dairy shed. Consider what may occur if changes to staff or the shed set-up occur, or what the impact may be if you’re selling your property.

It’s been suggested to me that I get a consent for my water take even though it’s less than 15 cubic metres per day and I’m able to use the permitted activity rules. Should I do this?

It is entirely up to you whether you want to get a consent. You are able to use the permitted activity rule to take the water you need under the current Waikato Regional Plan.

You do need to be aware that this volume may be changed when the Waikato Regional Plan is reviewed. This review legally must occur every 10 years (so by 2022), and involves a public process where any person may participate and have their say.

It has been signalled in the current plan that if water allocation remains an issue when the water allocation rules are reviewed in 10 years, that this volume may be reduced. The maximum term you will get for a consent is 15 years.

What are you going to do if I don’t apply for consent?

If you don’t apply for consent by 1 January 2015 you will run the risk of not securing legal access to your water supply. We will be following up with farms that do not hold the necessary consent to take water after this time.

Any unauthorised water takes means you’re operating illegally and may be subject to enforcement action if we consider it appropriate. That enforcement options include abatement notices (for example, a notice to cease taking water), infringement fines, enforcement orders and prosecution.

You may also wish to consider how failing to obtain a water take consent might impact on the future of your farm. A farm without legal access to water may not be as valuable as one that does.