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  Council » Policies and Plans » Rules and regulation » Waikato Regional Plan » Waikato Regional Plan (online version) » 7.6 Regional Rules » 7.6.3 Takes and Discharges in Research Systems

7.6.3 Takes and Discharges in Research Systems

All the rules in this section shall apply to a Research Geothermal System as mapped in section 7.9 of this plan and to geothermal water that has been shown to be strongly hydrologically connected to a mapped Research Geothermal System.

Summary of Rules For Takes and Discharges In Research Systems

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7.6.3.1 Permitted Activity Rule – Small Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal Systems for Scientific Investigation or Enhancement Purposes

Any:

  1. Take or use of geothermal energy or water within a Research Geothermal System, or
  2. Discharge of water and associated naturally occurring contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

that is undertaken for the purpose of scientific investigation or enhancement of the geothermal system or associated surface features is a permitted activity subject to the following condition:

  1. The maximum rate at which water can be taken or discharged shall not exceed 1 tonne per day.

7.6.3.2 Permitted Activity Rule – Existing Small Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal Systems

Any:

  1. Take or use of geothermal energy or water within a Research Geothermal System; or
  2. Discharge of water and associated contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

that was lawfully established or authorised prior to 23 August 2003 is a permitted activity subject to the following conditions:

  1. Except as limited by other conditions of this rule, the amount, rate and location of the activity shall not change from that which was lawfully established or authorised.
  2. The maximum rate at which surface water can be taken shall not exceed 15 tonnes per day.
  3. The maximum rate at which ground water can be taken shall not exceed 30 tonnes per day.
  4. The maximum rate at which heat from ground water can be taken without taking water shall not exceed 7,500 megajoules per day.
  5. The maximum rate at which water and contaminants can be discharged shall not exceed 30 tonnes per day.
  6. The method of any discharge shall be soakage or reinjection.
  7. There shall be no discharge into any natural surface water body.
  8. There shall be no discharge of geothermal water into any natural fresh water body.

7.6.3.3 Permitted Activity Rule – Use of Down-Hole Heat Exchangers in Research Geothermal Systems

Any take of heat from geothermal ground water without taking water within a Research Geothermal System is a permitted activity subject to the following conditions:

  1. The maximum rate at which heat can be taken shall not exceed 7,500 megajoules per day.
  2. Any take that is established after 23 August 2003 shall be located no less than 100 metres from a Significant Geothermal Feature.
  3. Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) shall be notified in writing of the activity within one month of the start of the activity.

Advisory Note:

  • This rule includes increases in existing takes of energy from Research Geothermal Systems provided they comply with the conditions specified in the rule.

7.6.3.4 Restricted Discretionary Activity Rule – Small Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal

Except as permitted or regulated by Rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.3, 3.3.4.11, and Rules within sections 3.5.8 and 3.8, any:

  1. Take or use of geothermal energy or water within a Research Geothermal System; or
  2. Discharge of water and associated contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

is a restricted discretionary activity (requiring resource consent) subject to the following standards and terms:

  1. The maximum rate at which water can be taken shall not exceed 15 tonnes per day.
  2. The maximum rate at which water and contaminants can be discharged shall not exceed 30 tonnes per day.

Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) restricts its discretion to the following matters:

  1. Effects on ground water resources
  2. Effects on the geothermal system, including the location, depth, and volume, rate and temperature of takes and discharges
  3. Effects on geothermal surface features, including cumulative effects.

Advisory Note:

  • Information requirements to enable the assessment of any application under this rule are set out in Section 8.1.2.1 and 8.1.2.2 of this Plan.

7.6.3.5 Discretionary Activity Rule – Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal Systems

Except as permitted or regulated by Rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.4, 3.3.4.11, and Rules within sections 3.5.8 and 3.8, any:

  1. Take of up to 2,000 tonnes per day of geothermal energy or water from within a Research Geothermal System, or
  2. Discharge of water and associated contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

is a discretionary activity (requiring resource consent).

Assessment Criteria:
The matters that Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) considers in the assessment of a discretionary activity under this rule will include, but not be limited to:

  1. The extent to which adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features will be avoided or remedied;
  2. The extent to which the cultural values of tangata whenua are recognised including their kaitiaki role with the geothermal resource;
  3. The extent to which the rate and volume of take will be controlled so as to manage the adverse effects on the geothermal system and overlying environment over the long term and achieve sustainable management of the resource;
  4. The provision of productive efficiency analyses for the proposed uses of the geothermal fluid and energy and the extent to which optimum productive efficiency can be achieved;
  5. The extent to which distribution of geothermal fluid or energy to secondary uses and users is accommodated where appropriate and provision is made for potential future uses, especially those that have high productive efficiency and provide a community benefit;
  6. The extent to which associated infrastructure such as structures, pipelines and wells will be designed, constructed and placed to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on biodiversity, landscape and amenity values;
  7. The extent to which consultation with key stakeholders including tangata whenua has been undertaken and the recognition of concerns has been taken into account;
  8. The extent to which heat and contaminant loads, and relative water volume and flow characteristics of the discharge will affect the receiving environment in terms of other uses, its intrinsic and cultural value and its ecological health;
  9. The extent to which remediation of significant adverse effects is achievable;
  10. Whether the discharge is the best practicable option.

7.6.3.6 Discretionary Activity Rule – Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal Systems for Scientific Investigation or Enhancement Purposes

Except as permitted or regulated by Rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.5, 3.3.4.11, and Rules within sections 3.5.8 and 3.8, any:

  1. Take of geothermal energy or water from a Research Geothermal System of up to 10,000 tonnes per day or
  2. Discharge of water and associated naturally occurring contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

that is undertaken for the purpose of scientific investigation or enhancement of the geothermal system or associated surface features is a discretionary activity (requiring resource consent).

Assessment Criteria:
The matters that Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Council) considers in the assessment of a discretionary activity under this rule will include, but not be limited to:

  1. The extent to which adverse effects on Significant Geothermal Features will be avoided or remedied;
  2. The extent to which the cultural values of tangata whenua are recognised including their kaitiaki role with the geothermal resource;
  3. Provision for the identification of the system’s hydrological boundary to be researched and reviewed;
  4. Provision for research into the system’s possible hydrological connection with another large system;
  5. Provision for research into the characteristics of the geothermal system, including surface features;
  6. The extent to which the rate and volume of take will be controlled so as to manage the adverse effects on the geothermal system and overlying environment over the long term and achieve sustainable management of the resource;
  7. The extent to which the precautionary approach in situations of scientific uncertainty is taken into account;
  8. The extent to which consultation with key stakeholders including tangata whenua has been undertaken and the recognition of concerns has been taken into account.
  9. The extent to which heat and contaminant loads, and relative water volume and flow characteristics of the discharge will affect the receiving environment in terms of other uses, its intrinsic and cultural value and its ecological health;
  10. The effect on the sustainability of the geothermal system from loss of the energy and fluid contained in the discharge;
  11. The extent to which remediation of significant adverse effects is achievable;
  12. The extent to which the duration of the activity is limited to that necessary for scientific or enhancement purposes;
  13. Whether the discharge is the best practicable option.

7.6.3.7 Non-Complying Rule – Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal Systems

Except as permitted or regulated by rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.6, 3.3.4.11, and Rules within sections 3.5.8 and 3.8, any:

    1. Take of geothermal energy or water from a Research Geothermal System, or
  1. Discharge of water and associated contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

Is a non-complying activity, only if it is accompanied by a request for a Plan Change to change the classification of that System together with the information required by this Plan for such a change.

Any resource consent granted pursuant to this rule shall not commence unless and until such time as the accompanying Plan Change reclassifying the System becomes operative.

7.6.3.8 Prohibited Activity Rule –Takes of Geothermal Water and Energy and Associated Discharges in Research Geothermal Systems

Except as permitted or regulated by rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.7, 3.3.4.11, and Rules within sections 3.5.8 and 3.8, any:

  1. Take of geothermal energy or water from a Research Geothermal System, or
  2. Discharge of water and associated contaminants into water, or onto or into land, arising from the taking of geothermal water from within a Research Geothermal System;

is a prohibited activity for which no resource consent shall be granted.

Explanation and Principal Reasons for Adopting Rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.8

Rules 7.6.3.1 to 7.6.3.8 establish the regulatory regime for takes and associated discharges from Research Geothermal Systems. These rules stem from the Policies in Section 3.7 of the RPS and Section 7.4 of this Plan.  

Each rule, except for Rule 7.6.3.3, addresses both the take and discharge of geothermal water and energy so that in most cases users do not have apply for separate consents for take and discharge of the same water. Rule 7.6.3.3 addresses the use of down-hole heat exchangers, from which no discharge is necessary. The use of down-hole heat exchangers is promoted because it results in no loss of geothermal water, and less loss of heat, than the taking of fluid and subsequent discharge into the environment.

Small existing uses of Research Systems are permitted under Rule 7.6.3.2 subject to conditions, on the basis that the level of effects is minor. This rule allows existing takes of up to 15 tonnes per day of surface water and 30 tonnes per day of ground water from Research Systems, together with associated discharges. As well as restricting the scale of existing uses, Rule 7.6.3.2 requires in condition f) that discharges are by soakage or reinjection. Condition g) ensures that natural surface water is not contaminated by the discharge and that discharge does not occur to geothermal surface features. Condition h) ensures protection of fresh ground water. These conditions are considered necessary to ensure that the viability of Research Systems and their associated significant surface features are sustained (as required by Regional Policy Statement, Section 3.7.2.3). In condition e), for surface takes this rule allows for a daily discharge greater than the take to enable some flexibility of stored fluid.  

Existing small uses that cannot comply with Rules 7.6.3.2 or 7.6.3.3 are regulated as discretionary activities under Rule 7.6.3.4, on the basis that a case by case assessment is required of whether these activities should be allowed to continue. This rule also covers new small extractive uses. Larger takes, of a scale not likely to have significant adverse effects on the system or any other, given suitable conditions, are a discretionary activity under Rule 7.6.3.5.

Takes and discharges undertaken for scientific investigation or enhancement purposes, are allowed for in Rules 7.6.3.1 and 7.6.3.6, as such activities may well be of benefit to the sustainable management of Research Systems. Very small takes are permitted under Rule 7.6.3.1, and larger activities are discretionary under Rule 7.6.3.6, recognising that they should not proceed unless the effects are minor. The discharge of tracers for scientific investigation is covered under Rule 3.5.9.1.

In this context, acceptable research includes investigations to:

  • determine whether or not the system is connected to another
  • delineate the resistivity, hydrological and other boundaries of the system
  • determine other characteristics of the system such as heat and mass outflow, and gas and water chemistry
  • identify, map, or describe geothermal features and their characteristics within the system

It excludes any investigations that would be likely to have significant adverse effects on the characteristics of the system, Significant Geothermal Features and flowing geothermal features, and other natural and physical resources. Any takes of geothermal fluid for research purposes are expected to be of limited duration, for example, days or weeks rather than years.

The purpose of Rule 7.6.3.7 is to enable the promoter of a plan change to seek resource consents to take, use and discharge geothermal energy and water contemporaneously with the plan change request. Any resource consent granted under this rule will be subject to conditions ensuring that the consent cannot be exercised unless and until the relevant plan change is operative, having regard to the provisions applicable to the proposed system classification.

Any other take or discharge is prohibited under Rule 7.6.3.8. This recognises the lack of knowledge about these systems about the likelihood of large extractive uses causing significant adverse effects to the characteristics of the system or another system. The rule implements the precautionary approach required by RPS 3.7.2 Policy Four.

Those seeking to establish a large take on a Research Geothermal System first need to apply for a plan change to re-identify the System as a Development or Limited Development Geothermal System. The information required for a plan change is described in Clause 22 of RMA First Schedule, and in this case would include, but not be limited to, compelling evidence that the system is not linked to a Protected Geothermal System, and that the system does not otherwise meet the criteria for a Protected Geothermal System.

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