Policy 1: Management of Water Bodies
Manage all water bodies to enable a range of water use activities, whilst ensuring that a net improvement in water quality across the Region is achieved over time through:
- Classifying and mapping water bodies based on the characteristics for which they are valued and implementing the classification through a mixture of regulatory and non-regulatory methods.
- Maintaining overall water quality in areas where it is high, and in other water bodies, avoiding, remedying or mitigating cumulative degradation of water quality from the effects of resource use activities.
- Enhancing the quality of degraded waterbodies.
- Providing for the mitigation and remediation of adverse effects in accordance with Section 1.3.3 of the Waikato Regional Policy Statement.
- Recognising the positive benefits to people and communities arising from use or development of water resources and by taking account of existing uses of water and the associated lawfully established infrastructure.
Policy 2: Managing Degraded1 Water Bodies
Enhance the quality of degraded water through improved management of activities that affect water bodies so that::
- For activities controlled by rules in the Plan:
- discharges to water will not further degrade water quality with respect to those parameters of the relevant class(es) for that water body that are not currently met
- land-based treatment systems will be promoted where soil type and drainage will allow, and where adverse effects are less than the adverse effects of direct discharges into water
- water allocation takes into account the additional adverse effect of reduced flow in degraded waters on aquatic ecosystems and human uses and values.
- For activities covered by non-regulatory methods in the Plan, promote:
- land management methods that reduce non-point source discharges
- riparian management that mitigates the effect of non-point source discharges on water bodies.
Policy 3: Natural Character
Recognise, and where relevant provide for, the following characteristics when considering the preservation of the natural character of lakes and rivers and their margins and the protection of them from inappropriate use and development:
- Diversity and composition of aquatic and riparian habitat.
- Topography and physical composition of river and lake beds and the course of the river.
- The natural flow characteristics and hydraulic processes (such as sediment transport) of rivers and streams or the pattern and range of water level fluctuations that occur naturally in rivers and lakes.
- Any significant natural features of the lakes and rivers and their margins.
Policy 4: Waikato Region Surface Water Class
Enable the use of all surface water bodies in the Region, provided that:
- Any significant adverse effects on existing aquatic ecosystems are avoided, remedied or mitigated.
- Intake structures are designed to minimise fish entrapment.
- Any conspicuous change in visual colour or clarity is avoided, remedied or mitigated.
- The water body is not tainted or contaminated to the extent that it is unpalatable or unsuitable for consumption by humans after treatment (equivalent to coagulation, filtration and disinfection).
- The water body is not tainted or contaminated to the extent that it is unsuitable for irrigation or stock watering.
Policy 5: Natural State Water Class
The purpose of the natural state water class is to protect the flow regime, water quality and riparian and aquatic habitat for indigenous species in order to maintain the aesthetic and intrinsic values derived from the unmodified or largely unmodified nature of the catchment. These are outstanding waterbodies and important habitats because they are unmodified or substantially unmodified by human intervention.
Policy 6: Contact Recreation Water Class
The purpose of the contact recreation class is to provide a safe water quality environment for contact recreation in all rivers, streams, and lakes with significant contact recreational use by:
- Avoiding reductions in clarity that make the water unsuitable for contact recreation.
- Avoiding contamination to levels that represent a significant risk to human health or to levels that would render the water body unsuitable for contact recreation.
- Avoiding the development of bacterial and/or fungal growths that are visible to the naked eye.
- Avoiding the development of periphyton growths or mats to the extent that they cover more than 25% of the bed of the water body.
Policy 7: Fishery Class
The purpose of the fishery class is to maintain or enhance existing water quality and aquatic habitat in water bodies that currently support a diverse range of fish species and fish habitats with significant conservation values2, or which support significant recreational, traditional or commercial fisheries so that for these fisheries, trout or indigenous fish can complete their life cycles and/or maintain self-sustaining populations and managed trout and indigenous fisheries can be sustained.
This will include consideration of the need to:
- Minimise fish entrapment at water intake structures.
- Minimise adverse effects on fish spawning patterns in areas where spawning occurs
- minimise adverse effects of sediment loads and other contaminants on fish or their habitat.
- Maintain water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels that are suitable for aquatic habitat and spawning.
- Ensure that fish living in these waters are not rendered unsuitable for human consumption by the presence of contaminants.
- Minimise structural or temperature barriers and changes in flow regimes that would otherwise prevent fish from completing their life cycle and/or maintaining self sustaining populations, including migration and spawning.
- Minimise the adverse effects of physical disturbance to aquatic habitat.
- The main stem of the Waikato River (from Lake Taupo to Port Waikato) and the main stem of the Hinemaiaia River from the HB dam to the base of the HA dam are mapped “Significant Trout Fisheries and Trout Habitat” Water Class. However, it is acknowledged that significant trout spawning does not occur in these main stems. Accordingly, matters relating to trout spawning habitat in Policy 7 do not apply to the main stem of the Waikato River or the specified stretch of the main stem of the Hinemaiaia but do apply to their respective tributaries.
Policy 8: Reasonable Mixing
The zone of reasonable mixing is the area within which a discharge into water (including any discharge that occurs subsequent to a discharge onto or into land) does not need to achieve the standards specified in the water management class for the receiving water body. The size of the mixing zone must be minimised as far as is practicable and will be determined on a case-by-case basis, including consideration of the following matters:
- The nature of the effluent, including its flow rate, composition and contaminant concentrations.
- River flow rate and flow characteristics.
- The design of the outfall.
- The depth, velocity and rate of mixing in the receiving water body.
- Existing contaminant concentrations in the receiving water body both upstream and downstream of the discharge point and the assimilative capacity of the water body.
- The frequency of the discharge.
- The speed with which any contaminants will be diluted.
- The ability of the discharger to alter the location of the discharge and the mixing characteristics of the outfall so as to ensure that adverse effects of the discharge beyond the zone of non-compliance are not inconsistent with the purpose for which the water body is being managed.
- Whether the discharger has taken all practicable steps to minimise the concentration and volume of contaminants at source.
- Any effects of the mixing zone on other users of the water body.
- The extent of adverse effects within the mixing zone.
Explanation and Principal Reasons for Adopting the Policies
The policies and water management classes detailed in this Chapter have been developed as an overarching policy framework for managing aspects of the Region’s surface waters addressed by Objective 3.1.2 a), b), c), d) and e) of the Plan. Where resource use activities are likely to affect water quality, this policy framework is referred to in the more specific policy frameworks that appear elsewhere in the Plan. The other chapters of this Plan contain policies and methods that specifically address the other objectives of the water module.
Policy 1 sets the overall direction for Waikato Regional Council’s management of the Region’s water resources with particular regard to the achievement of Objective 3.1.2 a), b) and c). The policy provides a direct link between the classification methods applied in this Plan and the Regional Policy Statement. In particular, it clarifies the implementation of the net improvement approach as set out in Section 1.3.3 of the RPS and provides clear recognition of the value of existing infrastructure. Further guidance is provided by the water management classes which describe the purposes and characteristics for which water bodies will be managed in Policies 4 to 7.
Policy 2 describes in further detail how the net improvement objective and Policy 1 will be pursued in the case of water bodies that are considered to be degraded. The focus of the Policy is to achieve an enhancement in water quality in degraded water bodies compared with the actual water quality in those water bodies existing at the time of determining a resource consent application, including the effects on water quality of any existing discharge which is subject to an application for a new consent.
Natural character is a set of interdependent qualities that together give an area its recognisable character, and this will vary widely through the Region. Policy 3 sets out the aspects of natural character that will be considered in regional plan changes, as well as in the consideration of any relevant consent application that affects the coastal environment on the landward side of mean high water spring, and water bodies and their margins. The policy lists the aspects of natural character that fall within the functions of a regional council. Other aspects fall within the functions of territorial authorities.
Policies 4 to 7 provide a statement of the purpose for which a water body will be managed when it is classified as a specific class or classes. The policies also provide assessment criteria to guide the case-by-case assessment of resource consent applications.
Policy 4 describes the purpose of the Waikato Region Surface Water Class. This class applies to all surface water bodies of the Region and implements Objective 3.1.2 a). This class clearly identifies that the water resources of the Region should be available to be used in accordance with Objective 3.1.2 a) and e) provided that adverse effects are adequately avoided, remedied or mitigated.
The other Water Management Classes identify only those waters that are significant in relation to particular characteristics. For example, although indigenous fish may be found in many streams throughout the Waikato Region, only those waters that have been investigated by fisheries experts and found to contain either significant diversity or populations of indigenous fish have been identified in that class and shown in the Water Management Class Maps. Likewise, Contact Recreation Class waterbodies are those that are subject to significant contact recreational use by the community.
Policy 5 sets out the overall purpose of the Natural State Water Class which identifies those waters within the Region that are in a naturally unmodified or substantially unmodified state. These Natural State Waters are valued for their aesthetic and intrinsic values and are highly valued as sources of high biodiversity, stable flow regimes and high water quality. For these reasons, use of and discharges to Natural State Waters have been controlled by rules in the other chapters of this Water Module.
Policy 7, Fishery Class, describes the purpose for which water bodies mapped as Significant Indigenous Fisheries and Habitat and Significant Trout Fisheries and Trout Habitat, are to be managed. It lists the matters that need to be considered when assessing resource consent applications that have the potential to affect the fishery values of these water bodies. This class does not distinguish between areas that are significant habitat, and areas which are also significant spawning locations. It is noted that not all Fishery Class water bodies are significant spawning areas. Two specific examples of these are given in the exception to the policy (the main stem of the Waikato River and a section of the main stem of the Hinemaiaia River).
Policy 8 provides assessment criteria to help guide decisions on the size of mixing zone that is reasonable for any given discharge. The policy explicitly extends the concept of reasonable mixing to discharges onto or into land that may result in contaminants entering water. This means that the reasonable mixing test will be applied to land disposal of effluent. This is necessary to ensure that any subsequent effects on surface water from discharges to land are managed appropriately. To minimise the extent of the non-compliance zone in accordance with this policy, mixing needs to be as rapid as practicable. The effect of the policy is that the size of the mixing zone that is considered reasonable will be minimised. In many instances this will mean that the size of the reasonable mixing zone will be the outermost extent of the initial mixing zone.