Archive | Water

Government says new freshwater standards robust & clear, EDS says omissions mean more litigation

The Government announced national standards for freshwater yesterday that Environment Minister Amy Adams & Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said were clear, robust and would make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said setting national bottom lines for some freshwater quality parameters was a significant step forward, but the society remained concerned whether the detail would in fact lead to the water quality improvements New Zealanders are demanding.

Ms Adams said: “Ensuring an ongoing & reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental & economic issues facing New Zealand today. It is critical that we protect & improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

And Mr Guy said the changes balanced economic growth with environmental sustainability: “It’s not an either-or situation – we need both. Primary industries contribute more than 76% of our merchandise exports and largely depend on freshwater, while tourism also relies on the beauty of New Zealand’s water bodies.

“We all want sustainable & profitable primary industries. That will mean changes to some of our farming practices, but I know farmers are up for the challenge.”

The national objectives framework under the amended national policy statement for freshwater management requires rivers & lakes to have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem & human health.

Ms Adams said: “In 2011, the Government required councils to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands & aquifers across their region. If their water quality is already above the national standard, it cannot be allowed to deteriorate. However, where a water body currently falls below the national standard, councils & communities will need to ensure that the standard is met over sensible & realistic timeframes.”

She said she was considering applications from regional councils for $1.1 million of funding for activities that support regional planning & community participation in freshwater management, and decisions would be announced soon.

The Government also released a high-level snapshot yesterday of the freshwater reform programme, Delivering freshwater reform.

Taylor: Framework omissions mean more litigation

The Environmental Defence Society chairman said the creation of a national objectives framework was a key recommendation of the Land & Water Forum: “Submitters said they wanted to be able to swim in lakes & rivers close to where they live. However, the national policy statement includes a new objective to ‘safeguard the health of people & communities, at least as affected by secondary contact with fresh water’.

“This means there is no national requirement for lakes & rivers to be swimmable because secondary contact is limited to wading. This means communities will need to fight for the right to swim in local lakes & rivers. Instead of giving New Zealanders certainty, this means we will have to continue to engage in litigation.”

The society was also concerned the national objectives framework didn’t provide national bottom lines consistent with the national policy statement objective of safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of freshwater bodies: “The macro-invertebrate index (MCI, a measure of invertebrates living in rivers) is the best way to measure ecosystem health. Despite cross-sector agreement in the Land & Water Forum on the need to include MCI, ministers appear to have vetoed its inclusion in the national objectives framework.

“The framework puts in place a national bottom line for nitrogen toxicity. This is a big problem. The board of inquiry which recently heard the Tukituki catchment proposal rejected proposed nitrogen toxicity limits, deciding that dissolved inorganic nitrogen limits are required to maintain ecosystem health. This is the case throughout New Zealand.

“The inclusion of a national bottom line for nitrogen toxicity means there is a risk regional councils will view this as an appropriate limit. We are going to have to argue for nitrogen limits that will achieve ecosystem health in each freshwater planning process. Instead of providing certainty, this omission means we will have to continue to engage in litigation.

“There are a number of Land & Water Forum recommendations still to be implemented, including a new collaborative freshwater plan-making process. Unfortunately, legislation to implement collaborative plan-making has been held up due to the Government’s fixation on amending part 2 of the Resource Management Act.”

Links: National policy statement for freshwater management
Delivering freshwater reform

Attribution: Ministerial & EDS releases.

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Watercare’s developer levy rises 23.5% next week

Watercare Services Ltd will raise the infrastructure growth charges it imposes for development by 23.5% for metropolitan customers from next Tuesday, 1 July.

Around most of the rest of the region the increase is about 2.4%.

The Property Council criticised the price hike this week, saying it would feed directly into housing inflation at a time when both the Government and Watercare’s owner, Auckland Council, have been promoting efforts to improve housing affordability.

The metropolitan infrastructure growth charge will rise from $9775 to $12,075/household unit equivalent, including gst.

The Property Council said the Watercare fee was the same as development contributions charged by councils, although technically it might not be considered the same under the Local Government Act: both levies fed directly into housing cost at the start of development.

Watercare says on its website the infrastructure growth charge applies to all new connections to the network, and to existing properties which are redeveloped, which increase the demand on infrastructure: “The infrastructure growth charge means the necessary upgrades will be paid for by people who increase demand on the system, rather than placing the burden of costs on existing customers or leaving them to the next generation.”

The charge is intended to recover capital investment costs. Operating costs associated with new infrastructure are funded from water & wastewater consumption charges.

Attribution: Property Council release, Watercare website.

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Watercare moves to monthly billing in August

Published 27 May 2012

Watercare Services Ltd said on Friday it would move to a monthly billing cycle in August.

Watercare has been billing customers every 3 or 6 months, depending on the billing cycles of the former councils.

Chief financial officer Brian Monk said customers would receive a one-off bill in July which was likely to cover an irregular period such as 36, 51 or 108 days to account for the transition to the new billing cycle. They’d receive their first monthly bill in August.

He said the change followed overwhelming public feedback in favour of monthly billing.

Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Company release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Government introduces regulations to meter large water takes

Published 4 May 2010

The Government has approved regulations requiring all significant water takes to be metered as part of a wider programme to improve freshwater management.


Environment Minister Nick Smith said on Friday: "We can’t even begin to manage water properly in New Zealand when we have so little information on how much is extracted & when. It is estimated that only 31% of water taken nationally is metered. These regulations will ensure 92% by 2012, 96% by 2014 & 98% by 2016."


The Resource Management Act (water metering) regulations will come into effect on 1 July, requiring all water takes of more than 20 litres/second to be metered within 2 years, water takes of more than 10l/sec to be metered within 4 years and water takes of more than 5l/sec to be metered within 6 years. 


These regulations don’t cover small takes for domestic use – 5l/sec is the amount of water used by about 250 households.


Dr Smith said: "Water is a public resource and it is quite reasonable for the Government to require those who use it to pay for measuring & reporting how much they take. Economic analysis shows that water use is worth more than $5 billion/year to the economy, and only a small improvement in efficiency makes this investment in improved information well worthwhile.


"A national regulation is a far more efficient way of getting water measured, rather than leaving the decision & timing to each individual regional council. Regional councils have only been able to require metering for new consents or renewals, meaning it would take more than 25 years to get accurate figures on water use. It is also more efficient to have a consistent national standard for water meter accuracy & reporting systems.


"These regulations are the result of thorough consultation on a discussion document with irrigators, industry, councils, iwi & environmental organisations. There is strong support among sector organisations for the need for a national approach & these regulations. The Government has included pragmatic exemptions to ensure the cost is only being incurred where there are real benefits.


"These metering regulations are the first step in the Government’s plans to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management. Wider issues covering improved regulation on water quality, better systems for water allocation and simpler processes for advancing sustainable storage schemes will be undertaken after the Land & Water Forum has reported to the Government in July."


Dr Smith said the regulations would cost consent holders about $40 million. Specific costs to consent holders would include:

initial capital costs associated to install water-measuring equipment, estimated at $2855-9635, depending on how much is taken$200/year for data download, processing & provision of data to councils, andaverage calibration costs of $425-2200 every 5 years.


Holders of existing qualifying consents will have a transition period of 2-6 years, the shorter timeframe being for larger takes. Houses won’t have to be metered.

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ARC campaigned against zinc, now it’s moved on to copper

Published 30 October 2005

The Auckland Regional Council wants people to start using low-impact design practices to stop copper getting into waterways. Cllr Dianne Glenn, chairman of the council’s environmental management committee, made the suggestion on Friday in response to research indicating copper was heading to toxic levels.

Known sources of copper in Auckland’s waterways are car brake linings & run-off from building materials such as copper spouting & roofs, marina dry docks and soil disturbance on historic horticultural sites.

Cllr Glenn said 2 effective ways of preventing copper from entering stormwater drains, which ultimately drain to the sea, are to use alternative materials that don’t contain copper, or ensure onsite treatment of copper run-off.

“Low-impact design practices such as rain gardens, roof gardens, swales, filter strips & reducing paved surfaces are all ways of preventing pollutants like copper from getting into our waterways. The ARC is currently working with local councils & developers to see how we can mainstream source control and use low-impact design practices such as these,” Cllr Glenn said.

Regional stormwater action team leader Earl Shaver said copper has been identified in the council’s long-term marine sediment monitoring programme as the 2nd-highest priority contaminant after zinc under the regional stormwater action plan, established in February to improve Auckland’s stormwater quality.

“Although copper concentration levels in sediment are lower than zinc, their rate of increase is now almost on a par with it, and this is very worrying because copper is around 10 times more toxic than zinc to aquatic life such as shellfish & fish, and therefore potentially harmful right up the food chain including to humans,” Mr Shaver said.

Cllr Glenn said it was important to move quickly on copper because it was so much more toxic than zinc: “It’s a well known fact that copper is the active ingredient in anti-foulant boat paint because marine animals are so sensitive to it. If we want to protect the kiwi way of life when it comes to recreating in & enjoying our waterways, and our own health, then we need to start thinking about how our actions are affecting our harbours, streams & estuaries.”

If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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Development levy suggested for creating impervious surfaces

Water review group releases recommendations

A water industry review has recommended charging developers — including government organisations & councils — according to the amount of impervious surface they create.

Impervious surfaces such as roads, paved parking & roof areas have much higher rates of water run-off than soil or vegetated surfaces, significantly increase the quantity of water flowing into the region’s stormwater systems, and heighten the risk of flooding & contaminants being flushed into natural waterways & harbours.

The Auckland region water, wastewater & stormwater review was begun in 1999 by 6 of the region’s 7 councils (Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland, Manukau & Papakura, Franklin excepted) to examine long-term water industry issues.

The review’s findings & draft framework for action will be discussed in detail by each council over the next month before they decide what steps to take next.

Public consultation was undertaken last year, initial findings were discussed in council workshops in March & April, and a regional workshop involving wider interests was held in April.

The review report going to the councils now says they should work together to investigate introducing “impervious surface charges” for stormwater as the region’s urban population & rate of development increase.

The report said a system of charges linked to the amount of impervious surface in a development would improve environmental outcomes by modifying the behaviour of developers to consider run-off issues, and provide funding to improve stormwater infrastructure.

The review also recommends:

Councils should work co-operatively in operational, policy & planning areas to achieve better environmental, social & economic outcomes for councils, ratepayers & the general public

Setting up a new body — the Auckland Water Office — to monitor the industry and function as an independent watchdog on industry issues, such as pricing policies & consumer protection. Funded by the councils and established for an initial 12-month trial period, the office would facilitate closer relationships & co-operation between the industry operators & councils. It would also provide expert information & technical support to bodies such as the Watercare Services Ltd shareholder representative group

Putting in place a better mechanism to ensure Maori have input on the management of water-industry issues. At present, iwi are involved on a council-by-council basis, and the review recommends that a more efficient regionwide approach be taken.Once the councils have considered the review findings at meetings and workshops over the next month, they will decide how best to implement the recommendations.

This may include formulating a heads of agreement to establish the Auckland Water Office, and another heads of agreement between councils & iwi to establish a mutually beneficial framework for iwi involvement in the industry.

In addition to the possible impervious surface charges, review issues included:

Whether or not to amalgamate existing operators into a single regional council-controlled body handling all aspects of the water industry

Whether an independent industry regulator is required

How best to improve collaboration between council-owned water & wastewater operators, particularly with regard to planning capital & operational expenditure

Establishing a uniform regional policy for user charges

And, how best to ensure iwi involvement in industry issues.During the earlier council workshops it became clear not all the councils would support the option of amalgamating existing industry operators, such as Watercare Services and the individual council-owned operators, into a single regionwide entity. Some amalgamations may still be considered.

The steering group’s report, Auckland region water, wastewater & stormwater review: Findings & recommendations to councils (March 2002), can be accessed along with other background information about the water industry review process at the review’s website.

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