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  Council » Policies and Plans » Rules and regulation » Waikato Regional Plan » Waikato Regional Plan (online version) » 7.4 Policies

7.4 Policies

Policy 1: Identification of Geothermal Systems

Promote the sustainable management of the Regional Geothermal Resource by identifying Geothermal Systems for different uses in accordance with the categories in Section 3.7.2, Policy Three of the Regional Policy Statement, as follows:

  1. Development Geothermal Systems, where the take, use and discharge of geothermal energy and water will be allowed while:
    • remedying or mitigating significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features; and
    • avoiding, remedying or mitigating adverse effects on other natural and physical resources including overlying structures (the built environment).


    Development Geothermal Systems are identified in Table 7-1 and mapped in Section 7.9.1.

    Table 7-1: Development Geothermal Systems

    System Reason
    Horohoro Few surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.
    Mangakino Few surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.
    Mokai The system is already subject to large scale energy use and development.
    No surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.
    Ngatamariki No surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.
    Ohaaki The system is already subject to large scale energy use and development.
    Existing surface features significantly impaired by legally established large takes.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.
    Rotokawa The system is already subject to large scale energy use and development.
    Few surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.
    Wairakei- Tauhara The system is already subject to large scale energy use and development.
    Existing surface features significantly impaired by legally established large takes.
    No evidence of a flow of subsurface geothermal fluid to or from a Protected Geothermal System.

     

  2. Limited Development Geothermal Systems, where some uses may be allowed that will not cause significant adverse effects on the characteristics of the geothermal system, including Significant Geothermal Features. Significant adverse effects on other natural and physical resources are to be avoided, remedied or mitigated. Limited Development Geothermal Systems are identified in Table 7-2 and mapped in Section 7.9.2:  

    Table 7-2: Limited Development Geothermal Systems

    System Reason
    Atiamuri Several surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter, and other moderately to highly vulnerable features, that would be adversely affected by large takes, but which are unlikely to be adversely affected by small to medium-sized, suitably located takes.
    Tokaanu-Waihi-Hipaua Many geysers, sinter-depositing springs, geothermal habitats, mud pools, and other vulnerable surface features, that do not appear to be significantly adversely affected by the many small to medium existing extractions. Limited new extractions may be accommodated without adverse effects on the Significant Geothermal Features but larger extractive uses would be likely to have significant adverse effects.

     

  3. Research Geothermal Systems, where limited takes and discharges for the purposes of research are provided for, as are small-scale takes and discharges for other purposes. To protect the characteristics of the system, and other natural and physical resources, large takes are prohibited. Research Geothermal Systems are identified in Table 7-3 and mapped in Section 7.9.3.

    Table 7-3: Research Geothermal Systems

    System Reason
    Reporoa Several surface outflows vigorously depositing sinter.
    May be hydrologically linked to Waikite-Waiotapu-Waimangu Geothermal System.
    Large Systems undiscovered as at 23 August 2003  

     

  4. Protected Geothermal Systems, where the heat and fluid flows and geothermal features will be protected. Only existing and small-scale new uses including scientific investigation and remediation or mitigation of past adverse effects, are provided for within these systems. Protected Geothermal Systems are identified in Table 7-4 and mapped in Section 7.9.4.

     

    Table 7-4: Protected Geothermal Systems

    System Reason
    Horomatangi Sinter-depositing springs on the bed of Lake Taupo, sinter tubes and associated specialised ecosystems.
    Orakeikorako New Zealand’s largest concentration of geysers, sinter-depositing springs and other moderately to highly vulnerable geothermal features. Significant populations of Cyclosorus interruptus, Schizaea dichotoma, Christella dentata, and Nephrolepis cordifolia.
    Te Kopia Rare mud geyser (which may be a chloride geyser), several mud pools and super-heated fumaroles, large area of geothermal vegetation that represents the best quality example of a relatively intact area of geothermal vegetation which is part of a high quality ecological sequence. Contains the at-risk geothermal plant species Dicranopteris linearis, Calochilus paludosus, and C. robertsonii.
    May be hydrologically linked to Orakeikorako Geothermal System.
    Tongariro Is mostly within Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Area.
    Waikite-Waiotapu- Waimangu Many geysers, sinter-depositing springs and other moderately to highly vulnerable geothermal features. Significant populations of Cyclosorus interruptus, Christella dentata, Dicranopteris linearis, and Nephrolepis cordifolia.

     

  5. Small Geothermal Systems: In Small Geothermal Systems a low rate of fluid extraction is unlikely to cause unacceptable adverse effects but new large takes may cause unacceptable effects. Limited take and use of geothermal energy and water are provided for while avoiding or remedying adverse effects on the geothermal system, including Significant Geothermal Features.

 

Policy 2: Requesting a Change to a Geothermal System Identification

Provide for the reclassification of any Geothermal System, excluding those identified as Protected Geothermal Systems, where it can be shown that the Geothermal System more appropriately falls within another classification specified in Policy 1 above and having regard to Section 3.7.2 Policy Three of the RPS.

Implementation Methods for Policy 2:

  1. Any party may request a change to the identification of a Development, Limited Development, Research or Small System through a change to the Regional Plan, on the presentation of new information supporting such a request. In order to support such a request an applicant would be required to:
    1. collect, collate, and present information to address the matters in RPS 3.7.2 Policy Three Method 1 including information about the
      • System Size;
      • Vulnerability of Significant Geothermal Features to extractive uses;
      • Existing Use; and
      • Potential connection to any other Geothermal System; and
    2. prepare the supporting RMA s32 analysis for such a change.
  2. Protected Geothermal Systems are identified in the Regional Policy Statement, and a request for a change to a Regional Policy Statement may only be made by a Minister of the Crown or a territorial authority within the region.

 

Policy 3: Management of Use and Development in Development Geothermal Systems

Control the depletion of energy in Development Geothermal Systems through stepped production based on reservoir modelling that:

  • considers the capacity of the system as a whole; and
  • considers the reasonably foreseeable needs of present and future generations; and
  • promotes efficient management and use of the system.

 

Policy 4: Integrated System Management of Development Geothermal Systems

Each Development Geothermal System shall have an up to date approved System Management Plan that defines the objectives to be achieved in relation to the System having regard to the relevant policies in the RPS.

Implementation Methods for Policies 3 & 4:

  1. Require resource consent applicants for large takes to provide a draft of the System Management Plan. The plan shall include, but not be limited to:
    1. Description of the Geothermal System before the exercise of resource consents;
    2. Description of the resource consents and conditions to which the System Management Plan relates;
    3. Description of the proposed development, including:
      • provision for stepped development;
      • reservoir management (including modelling);
      • where appropriate, requirements for multiple uses and users;
      • identifying sources of high enthalpy fluid and how these may be accessed and used;
      • a Discharge Strategy in accordance with Section 3.7.2.1, Policies Two and Three, of the Regional Policy Statement;
      • identifying actions to remedy and mitigate any significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features;
      • identifying actions to avoid, remedy and mitigate any other significant adverse effects on the Geothermal System and other natural and physical resources including overlying structures (the built environment) ;
      • identifying how adverse effects will be managed to ensure that the burden of any adverse effects falls on those who cause them.
    4. Monitoring and reporting processes, including:
      • trigger points for initiation of actions to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects; and
      • subsidence monitoring, particularly in the built environment.
    5. Procedures for review of the System Management Plan;
    6. Peer Review Panel responsibilities;
    7. An Information Management Protocol outlining processes for information collection, review and dissemination. The protocol should clearly identify types of information that may be classified as commercially and/or culturally sensitive, necessitating specific consideration as part of any request for information received by the Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council).
  2. Require drafting of and submission for approval of a System Management Plan in accordance with the conditions of resource consent for large takes.
  3. Establish a process for peer review and updating of the System Management Plan.
  4. Provide, where appropriate, for the review of specific conditions of any resource consent to address the effects arising from the exercise of that consent.

 

Policy 5: Multiple Operators

Ensure mechanisms (multiple operator agreements such as steamfield management agreements and field operation protocols) are in place where more than one consent holder for large takes is to exist within a system. Any such mechanism shall address the following matters to the satisfaction of the Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council):

  1. coordination and cooperation between consent holders
  2. processes and procedures for assignment of responsibility and/or liability between consent holders for adverse environmental effects
  3. identification of potential interference effects between consent holders
  4. processes and procedures for avoiding, remedying or mitigating significant adverse environmental effects related to ii) and iii) above
  5. amendment of the System Management Plan
  6. processes and procedures for dispute resolution of technical and consent related matters
  7. processes and procedures for changes to the mechanisms, such as changes incorporating consent durations and transfers to new parties
  8. siting of wells to avoid interference effects and to achieve efficient use and appropriate reinjection/production
  9. monitoring, information and data access arrangements, including the apportioning of costs
  10. compliance with consent conditions, including joint reporting.

There is a strong preference for formal agreement(s) between consent holders but an applicant may demonstrate achievement of this policy by other mechanisms.

Implementation Methods for Policy 5

  1. Presentation of an agreement and / or mechanisms shall form part of the consent application.
  2. Mechanisms prepared in accordance with Policy 5 must be in place prior to the exercise of consents by the subsequent consent holder.

 

Policy 6: Significant Geothermal Features in Development Geothermal Systems

Where significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features in Development Geothermal Systems are to be remedied or mitigated, the remediation and mitigation may include:

  • the take and return of geothermal water being managed to remedy or mitigate significant adverse effects on those Significant Geothermal Features affected, or
  • adverse effects on features of the same or similar type (defined in the glossary) being remedied or mitigated to an extent commensurate with the adverse effect being caused (‘like for like’ mitigation).

Implementation Method for Policy 6:

Identification of Significant Geothermal Features in Development Systems: In accordance with Section 3.7.2, Policy Two of the Regional Policy Statement, Significant Geothermal Features in Development Geothermal Systems are identified in Table 7-5. The boundary of each Significant Geothermal Feature in Development Geothermal Systems is shown in Section 7.10: Significant Geothermal Features Maps.

 

Table 7-5: Significant Geothermal Features in Development Geothermal Systems

Development Geothermal System Location of Significant Geothermal Feature Significant Geothermal Feature types present (see maps in Section 7.10 for named features  and numbered feature areas)
Horohoro Horohoro Culturally significant feature (5)
Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (5 , 6)
Geothermally-influenced water body (5)
Heated ground habitat (5)
Hydrothermal eruption craters (1, 2, 4)
Recent sinter (5)
Mokai Paerata Rd Heated ground habitat
Mud geyser
Mud pools
Tirohanga Rd Heated ground habitat (1 – 9)
Mud pools (1 – 9)
Waipapa Stream Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate
Geothermally-influenced water body (Waipapa Stream)
Ngatamariki Orakonui Springs Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (1)
Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate (2, 3)
Geothermally-influenced water body (pools (6, 7))
Heated ground habitat (2 - 7)
Hydrothermal eruption crater (7)
Waikato River Springs Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (1, 3, 4)
Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate (1)
Geothermally-influenced water body (wetlands (1, 3, 4))
Ohaaki Ohaaki Steamfield East Heated ground habitat
Ohaaki Steamfield West Culturally significant feature (Ohaaki Ngawha (3))
Heated ground habitat (1 – 4)
Recent sinter (Ohaaki Ngawha (3))
Rotokawa Lake Rotokawa Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (Lake Rotokawa and Parariki Stream)
Geothermally-influenced water body (Lake Rotokawa and Parariki Stream)
Heated ground habitat
Hydrothermal eruption craters
Springs vigorously depositing sinter (lake-edge springs)
Rotokawa North Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (Parariki Stream)
Geothermally-influenced water body (Parariki Stream)
Heated Ground Habitat
Hydrothermal eruption craters

Parariki Stream

Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (Parariki Stream)
Geothermally-influenced water body (Parariki Stream)
Wairakei-Tauhara Broadlands Rd Reserve Heated ground habitat
Hydrothermal eruption craters (1)
Mud pools (1)
Craters of the Moon Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate
Heated ground habitat
Hydrothermal eruption craters
Mud pools
Crown Rd and Crown Park Reserve Heated ground habitat
Hall of Fame Stream Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate
Karapiti Forest Heated ground habitat
Otumuheke Stream and Spa Park Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate (Otumuheke Stream (1))
Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (Otumuheke Stream (1))
Geothermally-influenced water body (Otumuheke Stream (1))
Heated Ground Habitat (3)
Recent Sinter (2)
Te Kiri O Hine Kai Stream and Waiora Lakes Geothermally-influenced water bodies (Te Kiri O Hine Kai Stream and Alum Lake)
Heated ground habitat
Hydrothermal eruption craters
Te Rautehuia Heated ground habitat
Te Rautehuia Stream Heated ground habitat
Mud pools
Upper Wairakei Stream
(Geyser Valley)
Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate (4, 6)
Heated ground habitat  (3, 6)
Mud pools (3, 6)
Recent sinter (1, 6)
Waipahihi Valley
(Onekeneke Stream)
Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat (Onekeneke Stream)
Geothermally-influenced water body (Onekeneke Stream)
Heated ground habitat
Recent sinter
Waipouwerawera Heated Ground Habitat

 

Policy 7: Significant Geothermal Features in all other Geothermal Systems

Ensure that take, use, and discharge of geothermal energy and water avoid significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features in Limited Development, Research, Protected and Small Geothermal Systems.

In Limited Development Systems, should unintended significant adverse effects occur to Significant Geothermal Features as a result of the exercise of any consent, require the consent holder to remedy or mitigate those effects.

Implementation Methods for Policy 7:

  1. Identification of Significant Geothermal Features in Limited Development Systems: In accordance with Section 3.7.2, Policy Two of the Regional Policy Statement, Significant Geothermal Features in Limited Development Geothermal Systems are identified in Table 7-6. The boundary of each Significant Geothermal Feature in Limited Development Geothermal Systems is shown in Section 7.10: Significant Geothermal Features Maps.


    Table 7-6: Significant Geothermal Features in Limited Development Geothermal Systems

     

    Limited Development Geothermal System

    Location of Significant Geothermal Feature

    Significant Geothermal Feature types (see maps in Section 7.10 for named features  and numbered feature areas)

    Atiamuri

     

    Whangapoa Springs

    Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate (2)

    Geothermally-influenced water body (2, 3)

    Heated ground habitat (3)

    Spring vigorously depositing sinter (3)

    Tokaanu -Waihi - Hipaua

    Hipaua Steaming Cliffs

    Heated Ground Habitat

    Mud pools

     

    Maunganamu

     

    Geothermally-influenced aquatic habitat

     

     

     

    Tokaanu Domain

     

    Geothermally-induced atmospheric microclimate

    Geothermally-influenced water body (Atakororeke Stream and several pools)

    Heated ground habitat

    Mud pools

    Recent Sinter

    Springs vigorously depositing sinter

     

     

  2. For Research Protected and Small Systems – Significant Geothermal Features are not mapped and are those that meet one or more of the descriptions of Significant Geothermal Feature Types which are defined in the Glossary.

     

  3. Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will continue to investigate and monitor geothermal features in all geothermal systems, particularly those in Research, Protected, and Small Geothermal Systems, in order to increase knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of geothermal features.

     

  4. Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will introduce a variation to correct/update the maps in section 7.10 of this plan for Significant Geothermal features as a consequence of new information obtained since notification. The variation will also delete this method. [NB: Maps in Section 7.10 were updated by Variation No. 7 – Minor Variations and Geothermal Maps which became operative in December 2010. Those updated Maps are incorporated in this online Version of the Plan.]

     

Policy 8: Geothermal Features in Protected Geothermal Systems
Recognise Geothermal Features in Protected Geothermal Systems where they are valued for amenity, cultural or scientific reasons.

Implementation Method for Policy 8:

When assessing resource consent applications, where appropriate, have regard to the value of Geothermal Features and provide for their protection.

 

Policy 9: Relative Significance of Significant Geothermal Features to be Considered

When assessing applications for activities that will significantly adversely affect a Significant Geothermal Feature, the matters that Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) considers will include:

  • the significance of the feature compared to other examples of that type of feature within the Region;
  • the classification of the Geothermal System that the feature lies within; and
  • the benefits of the activity that may cause the adverse effect on a Significant Geothermal Feature, when deciding whether and by how much the effects are to be avoided, remedied or mitigated, as directed by the objectives and policies for each type of Geothermal System in the Regional Policy Statement.

Implementation Method for Policy 9:
The following factors should be taken into account when determining the relative significance of a Significant Geothermal Feature and the measures to be taken to avoid, remedy, or mitigate adverse effects on it, (as directed by the objectives and policies for each type of Geothermal System):

  1. current uses and management of the feature and the area immediately surrounding it;
  2. the relative rarity, resilience and viability of the specific feature compared to other features of the same type;
  3. cultural, social, economic, scientific, and intrinsic values of the feature;
  4. previous modifications to the feature; and
  5. effects of the activity on the significant characteristics of the feature including dependent ecosystems.

 

Policy 10: Adverse Effects of Land Use and Take, Use and Discharge of Water on Significant Geothermal Features

Ensure that land use and the take, use and discharge of non-geothermal water avoid significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features.

 

Policy 11: Effects of Geothermal Resource Use on Other Natural and Physical Resources, including Overlying Structures (the Built Environment)
When taking, using, or discharging geothermal energy and water in Development Geothermal Systems, avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effects on non-geothermal natural and physical resources, including overlying structures (the built environment).

Where there is scientific uncertainty and a threat of serious or irreversible adverse effects on natural and physical resources including overlying structures (the built environment) adopt a precautionary approach.

Implementation Method for Policy 11:

When assessing applications for activities that may have adverse effects on other natural and physical resources including overlying structures (the built environment) the characteristics of the system, the nature of the use and the sensitivity of the built environment to adverse effects will be considered. In addition, the best method(s) for avoiding, remedying or mitigating adverse effects on the built environment will be required and in that respect the factors to be taken into account include:

  • The severity of impact of the adverse effects on other natural and physical resources including overlying structures (the built environment);
  • Relevant national and international best practice in geothermal system management;
  • The known body of information and experience of the particular Geothermal System, including data, information, research, monitoring and survey results and experience;
  • The identification of suitable sites for reinjection/injection as part of a Discharge Strategy;
  • The costs of avoiding, remedying or mitigating adverse effects should fall on those who cause them; and
  • The availability and appropriateness of bonds as a condition.

 

Policy 12: Discharges of Geothermal Energy and Water onto Land and into Fresh Water

Ensure that discharges of geothermal energy and water onto land and into fresh water after efficient and appropriate use are limited such that the adverse effects are no more than minor.

 

Policy 13: Discharge Strategy for Large Discharges of Geothermal Energy and Water in Development Geothermal Systems

For large discharges of geothermal energy and water, reinjection / injection is to be undertaken in accordance with a Discharge Strategy prepared for each Development Geothermal System.

 

Policy 14: Information Gathering
Ensure that environmental monitoring is undertaken and information provided about the characteristics of the Regional Geothermal Resource. Ensure that high-quality data, research, and monitoring of the Regional Geothermal Resource and of the effects of its use, commensurate with the scale of any activity, are, where appropriate, independently peer reviewed and made publicly available having regard to commercial and cultural sensitivity.

 

Additional Implementation Methods for Policies 1 to 14:

  1. Assessment Criteria and Information: Where applications are made to undertake activities that may adversely affect:
    • The characteristics of the Regional Geothermal Resource;
    • Significant Geothermal Features;
    • Other natural and physical resources including overlying structures (the built environment),
    ensure that adequate information is provided to assess those applications and provide assessment criteria within the Rules for the assessment of such effects.
  2. Establishment and Review of Geothermal System Land Boundaries: Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will periodically review the system boundaries for Development, Limited Development, Research, and Protected Geothermal Systems, while ensuring that the precautionary approach is applied to the boundaries of the Protected Geothermal Systems. Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) undertakes to review these boundaries on the establishment or receipt of new information, or within ten years of the plan becoming operative.

     

  3. Supporting Investigation and Information Sharing: Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will continue to support and encourage collection of high-quality data, research, and monitoring into the characteristics and features of Geothermal Systems with the possible intention of changing their classification through a plan change, or introducing specific management strategies. Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will continue to act as a repository and disseminator of information about the Regional Geothermal Resource and matters relating to sustainable management and efficient use of geothermal resources including applicability and use of new technologies.

     

  4. Monitoring of Permitted Activities in Geothermal Systems: Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will monitor the cumulative environmental effects of geothermal takes and discharges within Geothermal Systems that do not require resource consent. Where there are significant adverse effects occurring, the relevant permitted activity rules will be reviewed.

     

  5. Peer Review Panels: In association with its geothermal management responsibilities, Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) will establish peer review panels to assist it, particularly in relation to monitoring resource consents and Geothermal Systems that are subject to large-scale development.

Explanation and Principal Reasons for Adopting the Policies and Methods

These policies and methods build upon those for the management of the Regional Geothermal Resource in Section 3.7 of the Waikato RPS.

Policy 1 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 1 and specifically identifies Geothermal Systems that are to be managed for development purposes and others that are to be protected, according to the criteria specified in RPS 3.7.2 Policy Three. Policy 1 also sets out the management regime for each type of system in terms of whether and how significant adverse effects on the Geothermal System and its characteristics including surface features, and other natural and physical resources, are to be avoided, remedied, or mitigated.

Policy 2 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 1 by providing the opportunity for a system, other than a Protected Geothermal System, to be re-classified through a plan change upon the receipt of information that demonstrates that it is more appropriately classified for a different purpose.

Policy 3 supports WRP Objective 1 by providing for use and controlled depletion of energy in Development Geothermal Systems so that the needs of current and future generations can be met.

Policy 4 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 1 and seeks to achieve integrated system management through the preparation, approval and implementation of a System Management Plan that defines the objectives for the use and management of each Development Geothermal System.

Policy 5 supports WRP Objective 1 and ensures that, where there is more than one operator in a Development Geothermal System, all large takes and discharges are managed in an integrated manner through the use of a range of mechanisms to co-ordinate activities. Mechanisms must be in place prior to exercise of consents by a subsequent operator.

Policy 6 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 2 by requiring significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features in Development Geothermal Systems to be remedied or mitigated within the Regional Geothermal Resource.

Policy 7 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 3 and requires that significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features in Limited Development, Research, Protected, and Small Geothermal Systems are to be avoided. Method 1 allows for identification of Significant Geothermal Features in Limited Development Geothermal Systems in order that they may be protected from any significant adverse effects of system development. Method 2 recognises that in Research, Protected, and Small Systems, in the absence of a large-scale developer required to monitor effects of surface features, it is the role of the regional council to monitor the effects of permitted uses and to increase understanding of the Regional Geothermal Resource.

Policy 8 supports WRP Objectives 3 and 4 and provides a basis for protecting Geothermal Features in Protected Geothermal Systems that are valued for amenity, cultural and scientific reasons. The policy does not require mandatory protection but allows an assessment to be made through the resource consent process.

Policy 9 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 2 provides criteria for assessing applications for activities that will adversely affect Significant Geothermal Features, listed under Policy 6, which deals with the effect of extractive uses in Development Geothermal Systems. Other activities that may affect Significant Geothermal Features include uses of land and non-geothermal water, and extractive activities in other geothermal system types. Policy 9 also provides criteria for assessing the relative significance of Significant Geothermal Features that are to be affected. It allows analysis of Geothermal Features to ensure that the Region's most significant features are protected while allowing some flexibility in the use of less significant features.

Policy 10 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 4 by requiring that significant adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features arising from land use and the use of non-geothermal water be avoided.

Policy 11 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 5 by recognising adverse effects on other natural and physical resources from take, use, and discharge of geothermal energy and fluid, and by adopting a precautionary approach. It provides for the burden of adverse effects on overlying structures (the built environment) and other natural and physical resources to fall on those who cause them. The higher the impact, the heavier the burden. However, it acknowledges that the Regional Geothermal Resource is a significant geothermal energy source for electricity generation in the Waikato Region, and that the best practicable option should be applied where existing power plants need to be completed or extended, or new plants established, in order to accommodate increased demand for electricity yet prevent or minimise adverse effects to overlying structures and other natural and physical resources.

In situations of scientific uncertainty, where there is a need to prevent adverse effects of high potential impact to overlying structures and other natural and physical resources, a precautionary approach will be taken. Method 1 recognises that relevant best practice standards should also be applied for avoiding, remedying or mitigating adverse effects.

Policy 12 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 7 by ensuring discharges of geothermal energy and water onto land and into fresh water, after efficient and appropriate use, are limited so as to have no more than minor adverse effects. In some cases it is appropriate to allow the discharge of geothermal water to land or freshwater after use, including for the following reasons:

  1. There are no adverse effects to the geothermal system or the receiving environment;
  2. The water discharged has become unsuitable for reinjection as a result of efficient use;
  3. The water is discharged to a Geothermal Feature, mitigating significant adverse effects on natural or cultural characteristics of that feature.

Policy 13 supports WRP 7.3 Objectives 1, 5, and 7 requires a Discharge Strategy to be prepared as part of the System Management Plan for each Development Geothermal System. The final form of a Discharge Strategy, including provisions for reinjection / injection, will be determined by any consent granted and the conditions imposed.

Policy 14 supports WRP 7.3 Objective 8, which promotes information collection and monitoring. It recognises that information is required not only on the Regional Geothermal Resource, but also on the effects of its use. The concepts of independence, peer review and research are important. The release of information to the public needs to be balanced against the confidentiality of information that is commercially or culturally sensitive.

Additional Implementation Methods for Policies 1 to 14

Method 1 recognises the value of assessment criteria in providing guidance in the consideration of resource consent applications, and provides for the use of these in the Rules.

Methods 2 and 3 relate to the identification of Geothermal Systems in Policy 1, acknowledging that there is a need to continue research and information gathering to enable Geothermal Systems to be appropriately mapped and managed. Method 2 also recognises the need to apply a precautionary approach to matters relating to managing boundaries.

The Waikite-Waiotapu-Waimangu Geothermal System lies across the boundary between Waikato Region and Bay of Plenty Region. Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) has established a co-ordinated resource management approach with Bay of Plenty Regional Council for the protection of the system.

Method 4 recognises that it is necessary to ascertain through monitoring whether resource uses allowed as permitted activities are likely to result in significant cumulative effects. Method 4 recognises that consent holders also play an important role in undertaking monitoring as a result of their resource consent conditions.

Method 5 identifies the role of peer review panels for geothermal issues and in particular large resource consents, in order to ensure that the necessary knowledge and skills are available for auditing the management of geothermal systems subject to development. The expected outcome of Method 5 is the adequate sourcing and efficient provision of the necessary skills. The provision of information to the Peer Review Panel shall not constitute a waiver of any confidentiality attaching to that information.

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