Historically, water resources in the Waikato Region have not generally been used efficiently. This can largely be attributed to water being perceived as a free public resource, plentiful in supply and generally available to anyone wishing to use it. Waikato Regional Council considers the promotion of water use efficiency to be an important resource management issue. This means ensuring when water is in high demand its use is maximised (i.e. wastage is minimised) and the adverse effects of that use are minimised. Decisions by regional councils regarding water takes are becoming increasingly focused on promoting the efficient use of water, that is, ensuring that when water is allocated it is for a justifiable purpose and the quantity taken represents a reasonable allocation for the proposed use.
Section 14 of the RMA regulates the take, use, damming and diversion of water. These activities are not permitted unless expressly allowed by a rule in a regional plan (or in any relevant proposed regional plan) or a resource consent. The only uses of water that are allowed by the RMA are:
The uses stated in parts a) and b) are allowed, provided the use does not, or is not likely to, have an adverse effect on the environment.
Regional councils can also make provisions to facilitate the transfer of water take permits (or interest in water take permits) from site to site (s136 of the RMA). If no such provision is made in the Plan, then permit transfers are to be considered by Council on a case-by-case basis through the process set out in s136 of the RMA. In water-short catchments, or where the water resources are almost fully allocated, permit transfers could be an important mechanism for achieving efficient water use.
The policies and rules in this chapter do not relate to the allocation and management of Geothermal Water unless explicitly stated otherwise. The allocation and management of geothermal energy and geothermal water is addressed in Module 7 – Geothermal.
The provisions in Chapter 3.4 do not apply to the use of water associated with a dam or diversion where the water passes through or over the dam or diversion in the river channel. Such takes are exclusively covered by the policies and rules in Chapter 3.6.