The management of water bodies in a way which ensures:
- that people are able to take and use water for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing
- net improvement1 of water quality across the Region
- the avoidance of significant adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems
- the characteristics of flow regimes are enhanced where practicable and justified by the ecological benefits
- the range of uses of water reliant on the characteristics of flow regimes are maintained or enhanced
- the range of reasonably foreseeable uses of ground water and surface water are protected
- inefficient use of the available ground surface water resources is minimised
- an increase in the extent and quality of the Region’s wetlands
- that significant adverse effects on the relationship tangata whenua as Kaitiaki have with water and their identified taonga such as waahi tapu, and native flora and fauna that have customary and traditional uses in or on the margins of water bodies, are remedied or mitigated
- the cumulative adverse effects on the relationship tangata whenua as Kaitiaki have with water their identified taonga such as waahi tapu, and native flora and fauna that have customary and traditional uses that are in or on the margins of water bodies are remedied or mitigated
- the management of non-point source discharges of nutrients, faecal coliforms and sediment to levels that are consistent with the identified purpose and values for which the water body is being managed
- the natural character of the coastal environment, wetlands and lakes and rivers and their margins (including caves), is preserved and protected from inappropriate use and development
- ground water quality is maintained or enhanced and ground water takes managed to ensure sustainable yield
- shallow ground water takes do not adversely affect values for which any potentially affected surface water body is managed
- concentrations of contaminants leaching from land use activities and non-point source discharges to shallow ground water and surface waters do not reach levels that present significant risks to human health or aquatic ecosystems
- that the positive effects of water resource use activities and associated existing lawfully established infrastructure are recognised, whilst avoiding, remedying or mitigating adverse effects on the environment.
Principal Reasons for Adopting the Objective
The objective sets out the desired end point for management of water bodies in the Region, and is relevant to all chapters in the Water Module as well as other chapters that directly or indirectly affect water bodies, for example chapters dealing with river and lake bed structures, and accelerated erosion.
Part a) sets up the policy framework for enabling activities within the Plan and recognises that people and communities within the Region should be able to take water and carry out activities such as the generation of electricity, water abstraction or waste water discharge, provided adverse effects are avoided, remedied or mitigated.
Part b) recognises that Waikato is a large, diverse Region and water quality varies greatly. There are areas that have high or good quality water and there are areas that need improving, which is illustrated by Table 3-1 in this Chapter. The quality of water can be adversely affected by the discharge of contaminants, which produces adverse effects such as a decrease in amenity values, human health problems, and loss of flora and fauna. The net improvement objective sets a goal to achieve an overall improvement in water quality for the Region’s water bodies over time. For guidance on interpretation of this expression refer to the policy framework in this Chapter in conjunction with Section 1.3.3 of the RPS.
The importance of aquatic ecosystems is reflected in part c). The aquatic ecosystems of the Region’s water bodies are a significant component of the natural resources and biodiversity of the Region. It is important to avoid significant adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems as they are linked to the fisheries and recreational values that the water bodies provide.
Flow regimes as provided for in parts d) and e) are primarily affected by the demand for water from a particular source. While some sources in the Region are plentiful, others are limited. When excessive water is taken from water bodies, water quality can be degraded affecting instream uses, aquatic habitats, recreational uses, aesthetic character, supporting ecosystems and other environmental values. Flow regimes are also affected by water storage and water flow control structures.
Part f) recognises the need to protect water resources for the future and refers to the full range of uses, that encapsulate everything from water availability for ecosystem maintenance, to human drinking and irrigation needs.
There is only a limited water resource available for use in the Region. Part g) recognises that as the demands for this resource continue to increase, it will be important to ensure efficient use of the resource if benefits to the community are to be maximised.
Land uses in lowland parts of the Region rely on drainage to maintain productive farming activity. However in part h) wetlands (including peatlands) are recognised as vital ecosystems that contain a rich variety of flora and fauna. They often have a role in helping to reduce flooding and water pollution and are highly valued by individuals, local communities and tangata whenua. Drainage, taking of water and catchment works can affect the habitat and character of wetlands by changing flow regimes. Land use and development such as reclamation, peat mining and deposition of landfill material can also have significant adverse effects. Refer to Chapters 3.6 and 3.7 of this Plan for provisions relating to drainage and wetland management where there is a direct conflict between drainage and wetland protection.
The mauri of water resources is dependent on the physical and spiritual health of the water. Contamination or degradation of water has the effect of diminishing its mauri. Tangata whenua who take an active role as Kaitiaki are involved in the spiritual and physical aspects of their local natural resources, and as such are best placed to identify taonga and customary and traditional uses of those resources. Part i) recognises the relationship tangata whenua have with the water and the importance of avoiding large scale or irreversible adverse effects when managing the other stated objectives of water quality, flow regimes and wetlands.
Part j) recognises that there are effects which may be smaller scale but which together add up to adversely affect waahi tapu, fisheries and other taonga; and which are more easily remedied or mitigated as they occur, through resource consent conditions or non-regulatory methods such as education or incentives.
Part k) lists the main contaminants within non-point or diffuse source discharges that are adversely affecting water bodies and which the Water Module and parts of the rest of the Plan such as the Accelerated Erosion, Discharges to Land and River and Lake Beds chapters will need to address.
Many of the Region’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and the surrounding margins of land, have natural character values, where the influence of nature dominates the influence of humans, despite most areas being modified in some way. Part l) recognises the need to consider the effect of use and development on the natural character of the coastal environment, water bodies and their margins. The Plan’s jurisdiction in the coastal environment takes over from that of the RCP on the landward side of mean high water spring. Although the inland boundary of the coastal environment will vary, it is generally understood to be where the coast is no longer a significant element.
Part m) recognises that the groundwater resource is valued for its existing general good quality and availability. The objective introduces the concept of sustainable yield into the management of groundwater takes. The adoption of this concept means that when managing the use and development of the regional groundwater resource, Waikato Regional Council will ensure the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations are met by avoiding the adverse effects identified in Policy 3.3.3(2).
Part n) recognises that stream depletion can occur when groundwater takes are near surface water bodies where there is a connection between ground and surface water.
Part o) recognises that non-point source and land based discharges that may have minor adverse effects on their own, will have a cumulative adverse effect if they reach waterbodies at concentrations adversely affecting non human life or levels exceeding human health guidelines.
The importance of water use activities and existing lawfully established infrastructure is recognised in part p). The use of water resources, for example for community water supply and generating electricity, generates wide-ranging benefits. The value of these activities needs to be recognised while ensuring that their adverse effects on the environment are appropriately addressed.
The issue statement identifies that karst systems are an important aspect of the Region’s water resources While no objective specifically refers to water related issues in cave and karst environments, achieving the objectives related to water quality, aquatic ecosystems and water quantity will ensure that water in the Region’s karst areas is managed appropriately.