Water Regulation Changes – how will they affect you?
The rate of change is unprecedented, so it’s not easy to know what’s changing and more importantly, how changes may affect you. But don’t worry we are here to help navigate these changes with you.
Drinking water supplies
Proposed changes will impact most Canterbury farmers. The focus of new standards is to protect sources of drinking water.
The main change is that you’ll be defined as a water supplier if you supply water to more than just your household. For example, this will now cover farms where water is supplied to workers accommodation. There are more than 75,000 of these sorts of small supplies in New Zealand!
This will affect farmers in two ways. Firstly, you will have to register and comply with water supply rules i.e., deliver water that meets the standard and provide proof. Secondly, the water source used for that supply will require a source water risk management area (formally known as a source protection area) which may add increased restrictions on land use within the zone. Given the number of water supply bores on the Canterbury Planes, these protection zones may cover much of the farmed area!
These set a national direction on freshwater issues. Titled “Action for Healthy Waterways” the reforms are wide-ranging and aimed at halting degradation of waterways. The goal is to materially improve water quality within five years and restore to a healthy state within a generation. The reforms are set out within a National Policy Statement, and National Environmental Standard and some related changes to the RMA.
Some ways these may affect you include putting the health and well-being of the waterbody first, ahead of all other considerations, making securing or replacing consents more difficult; providing much stronger protection for wetlands and swimming spots; ‘interim’ controls on some forms of intensification; and additional farm environment plan requirements.
Three waters reform
“Three waters” refer to the infrastructure associated with drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater. Most of this infrastructure is currently owned by councils. The idea is to create four publicly owned water entities to manage these assets.
The main impact of these reforms will be on urban areas. However, some farmers will be affected, and many rural communities have voiced objections. Their concerns typically relate to a lack of democratic process within the reforms, an eroding of the local voice and the lack of clarity about how the significant upgrades will be funded, rather than direct effects upon their farming operation.