Wairau Aquifer water availability improves


August Weather Event 2022

Information relating to the recent weather event in Marlborough

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Wairau Aquifer water availability improves

The Wairau Aquifer Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) allocation status has recently changed from over allocated to having allocation available. This change in allocation is a result of recent water take permit expiries and the application of reasonable use calculations through the provisions of the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP).

Mayor John Leggett said Council had always been focussed on managing Marlborough’s water resources sustainably.

“The new Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP) has an allocation framework in place to provide for sustainable water abstraction and use. That framework incorporates allocation limits on the amount of water that can be taken from any water resource.”

In some cases, including for the Wairau Aquifer FMU, the grant of water permits in the past has caused the PMEP allocation limit to already be exceeded. The Council is required to resolve all over allocation. For the Wairau Aquifer FMU, the PMEP sets out that this is to be achieved by ensuring allocation does not exceed reasonable demand when re-consenting existing takes of water. In the meantime, no water permits authorising new demand could be granted.

Mayor Leggett said that the reasonable use test is applied to all water permit applications.

“It ensures that the amount of water allocated does not exceed that reasonably required to irrigate the pasture or crop, taking into account the climate and soils that exist on the property. Bespoke, property-specific allocations are a key part of the strategy for achieving efficient use of water across Marlborough.”

“The application of the reasonable use test for existing takes of water from the Wairau Aquifer FMU has, as intended, also made a contribution to resolving the over allocation of water from the aquifer.”

“It’s good news that within a short period of time the Council has been able to resolve over allocation for the Wairau Aquifer FMU. It means that the taking water from the Wairau Aquifer for new demand is not a prohibited activity at this time.”

“Resolving the over allocation and providing the ability to allocate water to new activities supports economic growth and also the environmental sustainability of our region,” he said.

Further information

In the future Council intends to include information on its website about the allocation status for FMUs, which will reflect their status at the time of publishing. Water allocation figures change on a regular basis with the granting, expiry, lapse or surrender of water take permits.

Water permit applications are considered on a first come, first served basis. It’s recommended that people check with the Council’s water consent processing officers about applications that are currently in the system to determine the likely availability of water to allocate. Please note localised effects of proposed take and use will continue to be assessed as part of an application’s processing.

To read the Allocation of Freshwater Resources section of the PMEP, which includes provisions to address over-allocation:

Go to section 5.5 of the PMEP on the Council website

Go to PMEP chapters on our website

Please note the current version is the ‘Appeals Version.’


The information in this media statement was correct at time of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.