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16.2.5 Contributions by Individuals or Groups to the Need for the Service

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The characteristics or use of the land or the actions of the occupiers throughout the catchment contribute in varying degrees to the need for flood protection, river management, river improvements and soil conservation in the catchment.

The physical “characteristics” of properties and the past and present “actions of the occupiers” are factors that affect Project Watershed’s costs. In the past, occupiers have assumed that they have an inalienable right to discharge the water from their properties at an ever increasing rate as a result of continuing pastoral development and drainage improvement. This has occurred not only on the flat areas of the catchment but also in rolling and steeper areas where a high proportion of the shallow gullies and swampy flats have now been drained. The expansion of dairying into steeper areas has been one of several factors driving this continued improvement in recent years.

Council considers that the responsibility for sustainable management of land does not stop at each property’s boundary and, under the new legislation, upper catchment land occupiers are considered to have some responsibility for the downstream consequences of their discharge. While it is recognised and accepted that there are legal rights for ratepayers to discharge water, it is also considered that under the Resource Management Act those rights are modified by the need to minimise any adverse effect, such as flooding, on downstream landowners.

Council has considered that costs should be allocated to “contributors” on the following premises:

  • That development of the catchment through land clearance, land drainage improvements, river and drainage system development and urban development has increased river flows. (A substantial body of scientific research, engineering knowledge and practical experience backs up this position).
    • That the development of hydro schemes and dams in the catchment has increased river flows. Council acknowledges that dam operations can assist in managing flows and this is recognised when determining the extent of contribution.


  • That the increased flows have increased the cost of ongoing maintenance of the assets that make up Project Watershed.
  • That the assessment of contribution should be based on the difference between the natural (pre-development) conditions and the modified (current) conditions.

The need for or costs of maintaining Project Watershed’s works can be alleviated because of the characteristics, or use of properties or the actions of the occupiers. Examples include areas of native and commercial forest. Council considers that alleviators should have nil liability as contributors.

Council considered that contributors in the catchment should be identified and allocated a share of costs in a manner that matches the extent to which they contribute, with alleviators (with native or plantation forest) having nil liability as contributors.