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Source: Environment Canterbury Regional Council

How are water consents transferred when the farm/company they were granted to is sold?

Water permits can be transferred to the new owner of a site by providing a written notice of the transfer to the Council. Effectively this is simply a change in the name of the consent holder and does not require an application to the council as there is no other changes in the consent.

Can water consents be sold separately of land?

Environment Canterbury is not involved in any commercial arrangements between the holders of water permits so we don’t know the arrangements they have around selling of water consents. The RMA does enable water permits to be transferred between sites but in these situations an application must be made to the relevant regional council and the potential effects of the proposed take and use of water on the environment considered. In some parts of Canterbury, Environment Canterbury will grant a transfer between sites only if the new owner relinquishes some of the consented volume. In Selwyn/Waihora and Hinds (both of which are in mid-Canterbury), for example, this amount is 50% of the transferred volume. This means that if a seller is transferring a water consent that allows a take of an annual volume of 100,000 m3, the buyer will only receive 50,000 m3.

What happens when the land use changes?

This depends on the conditions of consent. If the use of water is tightly restricted via those conditions, a consent holder may be required to apply for a variation or replacement application.

Can ECan revoke a water consent based on what the water is being used for?

Environment Canterbury cannot revoke a water consent based on the use of the water. However if the consent was granted for one specific purpose (for example, irrigation) but was being used for another purpose then we would expect the consent holder to apply for a variation to their consent. If they didn’t then that would be a matter for investigation and possible enforcement action.

Environment Canterbury can review water permits to address adverse environmental effects that were unforeseen when the consent was originally granted, but cannot cancel those consents outright.

Consent may be revoked when the Council has been materially mislead in the application, although this is an extremely high bar to meet.

Water consents can also be cancelled by a regional council where the council can prove they haven’t been exercised for the previous five years.

If there are water restrictions for residents, does this also apply for consents such as this?

No – Restrictions and limitations on water takes are specified case-by-case in consent conditions. A particular consent might have to go on restriction of it is hydraulically connected to a waterway or if the groundwater is adaptively managed. Domestic water supplies might go on restriction when the provider initiates their management plan, but they are a separate water take so does not affect other consents.

What are the considerations ECan makes when looking into this sort of consent?

If there was an application for a new take of water, we would look at whether water is available from the allocation in the groundwater zone as set out in our regional plans, we’d also check whether the take of water affected the ability of other users nearby to take water, whether the take of water is reasonable and an efficient use of water, and whether the take is close to the coast and might result in salt water intrusion to the aquifer.

Does the Council have to approve this transfer?

The council has no choice about a transfer to another owner on the same site – this is only a change of name (s136(2)(a) RMA).

When do you have to publicly notify a consent?

When we are determining whether an application should be notified, we must consider the application against the statutory tests in the RMA.  This includes considering the significance of the environmental effects.

If the environmental effects are more than minor then it is publicly notified.  If not publicly notified, we have to consider whether there are any individual persons that may be affected to a minor level, and if so they will be served notice specifically.

If none of the statutory tests in the RMA are met, the applications are not notified.

Is a consent to drill a bore the same as a consent to take water?

A consent to drill a bore is different to a consent to take water from that bore. Drilling a bore is a necessary step before applying for consent to take water, as bores must be tested to determine how taking water from it will affect other bores in the area.