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By Bala Tikkisetty Sustainable Agriculture Advisor at Waikato Regional Council
To help ensure things are done the right way, Waikato Regional Council can provide advice when people are planning any works around waterways, and has a range of relevant rules that spell out what is permitted and what requires a consent.
Council keen to lift awareness of the issues
In recent years, the council has received a range of complaints about inappropriate in-stream works, resulting in a number of formal investigations and prosecutions.
So the council’s keen to lift awareness about the issues involved and the responsibilities of farmers and others when carrying out works in and around water bodies. These can include stream straightening and excavating the beds of rivers and lakes for a wide range of purposes ( including to install bridges or culverts), to remove a build up of sediment or to manage an unstable stream.
Sediment build up or instability may be caused by stock trampling the banks, or cultivation of paddocks too close to waterways without an adequate buffer zone or enough sediment control.
It is important to ensure that these causes are dealt with to avoid recurring problems.
The effects of such problems on aquatic life and water quality can be exacerbated through inappropriate in-stream excavations, or inappropriate removal of bank vegetation.
Besides hurting water quality and aquatic habitats through increased sedimentation, destabilisation of banks and beds can cause changes to the course of rivers and streams, resulting in loss of land and property and infrastructure damage.
Bridges, culverts need to be well-planned
Structures such as bridges, culverts and water intakes are essential features of most farms and they must be well planned and constructed to ensure they are not at risk from the stream, and also to protect in-stream values.
These structures can obstruct or divert flows, or obstruct fish passage up and down rivers, blocking access to spawning grounds and migration generally, including to areas that have been used as traditional or recreational fisheries.
Against that background, the Resource Management Act clearly prohibits any disturbances to river, stream and lake beds unless the disturbance is specifically allowed by a resource consent issued by a regional council.
That’s why Council policies cover the use, erection, reconstruction, placement, alteration, extension, removal or demolition of structures in, on, under or over the beds of rivers, streams and lakes and any disturbance of the bed as well, such as stream straightening or cleaning. So those planning such works are wise to check out the rules first.
Follow rules and avoid problems
The regional plan has many rules enabling “everyday” activities, provided certain conditions are followed to avoid the sorts of problems described above. Those rules identify what activities are permitted without consents, and the conditions those activities must meet.
All parties involved can be held responsible for unlawful in-stream works, from property owners through to property managers and earthworks contractors. If the circumstances warrant it prosecutions or other enforcement action may be undertaken.
So it’s important to check the regional rules and to seek good quality advice when planning any activity in or near a stream. That will ensure that our rivers and streams are properly cared for as complex, delicate ecosystems in a productive agricultural landscape.
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More information on the details is available on 0800 800 401 or visithttp://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Council/Policy-and-plans/Rules-and-regulation/Regional-Plan/Waikato-Regional-Plan/4-River-and-Lake-Bed-Module/41-River-and-Lake-Bed-Management/