HB water decisions … drip, drip, drip!

The complexity and controversiality of water policy decisions seem to guarantee a slow pace.


  Added one year ago

HB water decisions … drip, drip, drip!

That’s what the pace of water decisions in Hawke’s Bay seems like.

Farmers and growers want to get on with it, but the complexity and often controversiality of water policy decisions seems to guarantee a slow pace.

Some examples …

TANK

The TANK (Tūtaekurī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū catchments) consultative process began ten years ago, aiming for a multi-stakeholder consensus of how the major freshwater bodies around the Heretaunga Plains should be managed. Where are we today?

The independent panel hearing the resulting Plan Change that wasn’t notified until 2020 finally issued its decision this past September. But all parties had a right to appeal the decision to the Environment Court. And appeal they did, across the spectrum …

  • Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society
  • Wairua Dairies Ltd
  • BP Oil NZ Ltd, Mobil Oil NZ Ltd and Z Energy Ltd
  • Horticulture NZ
  • Mangaroa Marae, representing the hapū – Ngāti Rāhungaiterangi, Ngāti Pōpōro, Ngāti Pāhū and Ngāti Pouwharekura
  • Ōmahu marae, (HUPHA) – Ngāti Hinemanu, Ngāti Te Upokoiri, Ngāti Honomōkai, Ngāti Mahuika Hapu Authority Inc.
  • Hastings District Council
  • Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc
  • Napier City Council
  • Heinz Wattie’s Ltd
  • T & G global Ltd
  • Delegat Ltd
  • Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association Inc: Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association Inc, Villa Maria Estate Ltd, Pernod Ricard Winemakers NZ Ltd
  • Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates LP
  • Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga
  • Federated Farmers of NZ Inc

Probably another two years before this is settled.

Water Conservation Order (WC)

Meantime, regarding a key waterway in the TANK domain – the Ngaruroro River – a Water Conservation Order was recommended by the Environment Court, after appeal by environment and recreational water user groups and some local iwi. What’s that all about?

As described by new Regional Councillor Xan Harding …

“WCOs are a protection mechanism set out in the Resource Management Act 1991. Anyone can apply for one. The key test for granting a WCO is whether any nationally outstanding amenity or intrinsic values exist for the waters. All any Order can do is preserve the existing state of those values. In other words, maintain things as they are.

“So what will the new Order do? Essentially, it will prohibit damming and lock in the existing ‘natural’ state in the mainstem of the river and in the tributaries above the Whanawhana cableway – the point where the river spills out of its gorge into the top of the Heretaunga Plains. Below Whanawhana, where the river is significantly altered by human activity and farming inputs, mainstem damming will be prohibited and the existing Fernhill 2,400L/s low-flow water take cutoff mandated. Existing use rights are unaffected but HBRC remains free to enact higher standards.”

The WCO has to somehow co-exist with the ultimate TANK decision, but there’s still more to come.

The new National Policy Statement on Freshwater requires the HBRC to come up with a comprehensive region-wide water manage plan by December 2025. HBRC has launched a public education/consultation programme – Kotahi – to lay the groundwork for that plan.

Seems like back to Square One.

And still more

Finally, decisions are still pending before separate Hearing Commissioners on two sets of water decisions of huge interest in Central Hawke’s Bay.

One involves the application from eight CHB irrigators for an allocation of an additional 15 million cubes of water from the Ruataniwha aquifer. HBRC officers oppose the applications. The hearing process has closed and a decision is expected before year’s end.

The second involves an application from private parties to extend the consents they hold that would permit construction of the once dead but re-packaged 104 million cube Ruataniwha dam. Those consents will otherwise expire in June 2024. The matter sits before an independent Hearings Commissioner, but work on an HBRC Officers’ Report on that application has been put on hold at the request of the applicants.

Drip … drip … drip.


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