Decisions on Selwyn-Waihora water plan

Ki uta ki tai - from the mountains to the sea.

Ki uta ki tai – from the mountains to the sea.

Environment Canterbury announced today that Council had accepted the recommendations of the independent Hearing Commissioners on proposed Variation 1 to the proposed Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan.


Variation 1 introduces new policies, rules, and limits to manage water quality and water quantity in the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere catchment, with particular emphasis on the long-term health of Te Waihora.


Commissioner Peter Skelton said reaching this point represented a significant milestone towards addressing the serious water quality issues in one of the most challenging catchments in the country.


“Council is confident Variation 1 delivers the vision of the collaborative Canterbury Water Management Strategy Selwyn-Waihora Zone Committee – to restore the mauri of Te Waihora while maintaining the prosperous land-based economy and thriving communities,” Professor Skelton said.


“I would like to pay tribute to the Zone Committee, Ngāi Tahu and the local community for their commitment and dedication to the task of producing an integrated package of solutions to deliver longer term water quality outcomes. We will now see a generation of important change through programmes like Whakaora Te Waihora,” Professor Skelton said.


“Continuous improvement will be needed over time, so a programme of action will be developed to implement the solutions package over the next 20 years.”


Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

Professor Skelton said it was especially gratifying to see the significance to Ngāi Tahu of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere and its margins being recognised in Variation 1. “The identification of a Cultural Landscape Values Management Area means consent applications in this area will specifically need to take into account Ngāi Tahu values,” he said.


Variation 1 introduces catchment limits for losses of nitrogen from farming activities and point source discharges – community sewage and industrial processing activities. It sets limits on abstraction from surface water and ground water in the zone, and minimum flows on rivers and streams. It also seeks to reduce allocation from ground water over time, and new takes are prohibited.


Variation 1 provides the first sub-regional section in the proposed Land & Water Regional Plan to be fully developed. The Variation will be subject to an appeal period of 15 working days. Appeals (on points of law only) can be filed in the High Court. At the end of that process (should there be any appeals), the Variation in its final form will be made operative. However, in the form it is now following the Hearing Commissioners’ recommendations, Variation 1 will become legally effective from the date of notification – 9 May 2015.


Key features of Variation 1

Farmers will be required to reduce their nutrient losses. The timetable for this allows them to make improvements to their nutrient management while maintaining farm financial viability. Where nitrogen loss rates are more than 15 kilograms per hectare per year, from 2022 farming activities must significantly reduce their nitrogen losses – by an average of 14%

Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere Catchment.

Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere Catchment.

A nitrogen loss allocation is available for the dry land that will be irrigated by the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme

The role of drains in contributing nutrients, sediment and microbial contaminants to waterways and the lake is recognised, with stock access prohibition extended to drains

To help address water quantity issues, water allocation limits are set, new takes are prohibited and the transfer of water permits is restricted. New minimum flow restrictions on streams and rivers are introduced from 2025


A prohibition on new damming extends to the Waianiwaniwa River and its tributaries and the north branch of the Selwyn River.


For the documents considered by Council today, go to


For more information on proposed Variation 1 –

On the proposed Land & Water Regional Plan –

Watch Video – Selwyn-Waihora Water Plan Presentation, 23 April 2015
Watch Video – Selwyn-Waihora Water Plan Q&A, 23 April 2015


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!