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Water allocation variation

Managing water allocation

Water allocation issues are a core part of Waikato Regional Council’s natural resource management responsibilities.

We need to ensure there is enough water in waterways to provide for such things as a healthy environment, that towns and businesses are catered for, electricity is generated efficiently and that farmers can work their land successfully.

The council recognises that managing these issues well is crucial for regional health, as water resources right around the Waikato are under heavy pressure from a range of user demands.

For example, as at May 2014, most of the Waikato River catchment has water take applications that, if granted, would see allocation limits exceeded – that is all the “easy water” available to take under our regional policies would be gone:

  • 89 per cent of the primary allocable flow above Karapiro is already allocated for summer months. More water is available in winter.
  • 87 per cent of the primary allocable flow at the river mouth is already allocated for summer months. Again, more water available in winter.
  • For both sites, the council has received enough new applications that if granted would take allocation levels over limits.

How are we managing?

These resource consent applications are processed, in accordance with established case law, on a first-in, first-served basis. As we process them we do so under the terms of the regional Variation 6 policy on water.

Under this policy, finalised by the Environment Court, water allocation limits are in place designed to help ensure a range of needs are met, including environmental, social, cultural and economic. The limits are not “absolute” limits at present. The council can allow over-allocation to provide for particular needs to be met but it is expected to avoid this where possible.

However, under national policy the council is required to phase out over-allocation by 2030.

What are some of the ways to avoid over-allocation and meet demand at the same time?

Smarter water use generally can help reduce pressure on water resources. This can involve a whole raft of water conservation measures ranging, for example, from in the home use through to industry and councils being more efficient and reducing water use.

The ability to transfer water use rights to others is another way of managing demand, and this is provided for under Variation 6. In some places users also have the ability to “harvest” water at times of peak river flows (such as in winter) and store it for future use.

Surface water allocation tool

The surface water allocation tool enables searching for the location of surface water takes, both applications and authorisations, by their unique ID number.  The location of the water take is shown on a map with other existing authorised water takes and an assessment of how much water is allocated is provided. Go to the surface water allocation tool.

Where to from here?

A scheduled review in 2022 will allow Waikato to look again at water allocation rules and the limits in place. This will enable the region to consider its policies as it prepares for the 2030 date for ending over-allocation.

Waikato Regional Plan: Variation No. 6 - Water Allocation

The Waikato Regional Council prepared and notified a variation to the Waikato Regional Plan to manage the allocation and use of freshwater over all of the Waikato region.

In recent times the method by which surface and groundwater is allocated in the region has come under increasing scrutiny and sometimes criticism from both political and technical perspectives. Many stakeholders believe that Waikato Regional Council's water allocation policy framework (as reflected in the Waikato Regional Plan) was not designed to deal with current levels of demand or competition for water. Certainly in recent times, a number of issues have arisen that have stretched the organisation’s ability to respond proactively and appropriately to the demands being placed upon the region’s water supply.

Variation 6 was notified for submissions in late 2006. A Hearing Committee heard submissions over a number of weeks in Hamilton between December 2007 and March 2008. Council adopted the recommendations of the Hearing Committee in October 2008 as its decisions.

Council’s decisions were appealed to the Environment Court by a large number of parties. The appeals covered every aspect of Variation No. 6. The key issues arising from the appeals included:

  • electricity generation versus water for irrigation
  • priority for water for domestic and municipal supply
  • s14(3)(b) takes and permitted activities for on farm use of water
  • area based permitted activity rules
  • iwi allocation of water for unspecified uses
  • the use of common expiry dates
  • transfer of water permits
  • ground water takes
  • temporary takes
  • Section 3.3.3 Policy 3 and Table 3-5
  • consent status of Huntly Power Station
  • use of water
  • various definitions.

A five month Environment Court hearing of the appeals was held in Hamilton from February to August 2011.

The Court issued a decision on the appeals on 30 November 2011.

You can download a copy of the Environment Court decision here:

Environment Court decision

The Court directed Council to make changes to the end of hearing version and file a new copy with the Environment Court. The Court has considered the amended version filed and released a minute confirming the wording of the Variation.

You can download a copy of the minute of the Environment Court here:

Minute of the Environment Court dated 10 February 2012

Appendix A to the Minute dated 10 February 2012

Erratum to Minute of the Court dated 10 February 2012 (released 22 February 2012)

On  29 March 2012, Council resolved to make the Variation operative. The Variation will be operative on 10 April 2012.

You can download a copy of the Variation here:

Variation No. 6 - Water Allocation (Operative 10 April 2012) (842kb)

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the variation or the consultation process please contact us.

The following documents have been removed from these pages:

  • the variation as notified (October 2006)
  • the s32 analysis as notified (October 2006)
  • Summary of Submissions (February 2007)
  • the Staff report and recommendations on submissions (November 2007)
  • Strikethrough version of the variation (incorporating changes made as a result of the Committee recommendations)
  • Proposed Variation No.6 - Water Allocation Hearings Committee Report Volume 1
  • Proposed Variation No.6 - Water Allocation Hearings Committee Report Volume 2
  • Proposed Variation No.6 - Water Allocation Hearings Committee Report Volume 3
  • Proposed Variation No.6 - Water Allocation Hearings Committee Report Recommendation version - Explanation of the approach taken in the Variation
  • Waikato Regional Plan: Variation No.6 - Water Allocation - Appeals Report
  • Proposed Variation No.6 - Water Allocation Hearings Committee Report - Part D - Clean version
  • Summary of council decisions
  • End of Environment Court Hearing Version dated 8 August 2011.

If you would like copies of any of these reports, please contact us.