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Taking Water

Information for applications for resource consents for taking water from groundwater from an aquifer, surface water from a stream, river or lake source, including taking water to fill a storage dam. Water permits are how Hawke’s Bay Regional Council allocates water.

What you will need a consent for

You will need a consent for taking water from
- groundwater from an aquifer
- surface water from a stream, river or lake source.

This includes taking water to fill a storage dam. Water permits are how Hawke’s Bay Regional Council allocates water. For the exceptions see What is permitted without a consent.

Water Allocation Calculator

The Water Allocation Calculator (WAC) is a tool that helps us improve the accuracy, consistency and visibility of water allocation reporting and consenting. 

Find the calculator here

Before you apply

Before you apply, please read:

Please note that different rules apply to consents within the coastal environment governed by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Coastal Environment Plan.

What is permitted without a consent?

You can take water for your own stock/animal drinking water needs and for your own domestic water supply without a resource consent.

In some areas, you can take an additional 20,000 litres of groundwater or surface water per day per property as a permitted activity, providing that other requirements such as the rate of take are met. This allowance does not apply everywhere, and we recommend you contact the Regional Council’s Consents Adviser before you go ahead.

In the Tukituki Catchment, no new surface water permitted activity takes are allowed. Depending on where the well is located, taking of 20,000 litres per day of groundwater per property may be able to occur – again, check with the Regional Council’s consents team to confirm this.

Technical Information - Consents for Water (Water Permits)

The following technical information gives details on consent requirements -
Surface water takes 
Groundwater takes
Water Harvesting & Storage 

What conditions may be set?

Each water permit has conditions which set a maximum allowable abstraction rate and volume and stipulate what the water can be used for.

The conditions will set out monitoring requirements, which in most cases will consist of installation of an accurate water meter, which you will need to read on a daily or weekly basis or set up a telemetered system that will automatically send information. You can find more information on water metering here.

A minimum flow may also be set as a condition. This requires a consent holder to stop taking water when the flow in the river or stream that water is being taken from or which the take is affecting has fallen too low. With some exceptions no water should be taken until the flow in the stream or river has risen above its specified minimum flow.

Surface water takes

Surface water takes are for taking water directly from a river, stream or lake. Usually there is an allocation limit for the river or stream. An allocation limit is usually set in the Regional Plan, and is the total amount of water that is allowed to be abstracted from a river or stream at a specified flow. In some cases more water may be able to be allocated with higher minimum flow conditions.

Fully allocated

Some rivers and streams are fully allocated. This means there is no more water available for abstraction, and you may not be successful in obtaining a new water permit to take more water (unless you are seeking to take at high flows with provision for storage).

The following rivers (and their tributaries) are considered fully allocated:
- Ngaruroro River, including the Maraekakaho Stream and the Tutaekuri-Waimate Stream.
- Karamu Streams, including the Clive River, Mangateretere Stream, Awanui Stream, Karewarewa Stream, Paritua Stream, Irongate Stream, Ongaru Stream, Raupare Stream and Louisa Stream.
- Lake Poukawa, and the Poukawa Stream.
- Maraetotara Stream.
- Puhokio Stream, Waimarama.
- Sandy Creek.
- Te Ngaru Stream.

Check out our water allocation dashboard here.

The allocation status of a stream or river can change, so please check with the Consents Adviser or Consents Planner to confirm. Contact us here.

Groundwater takes

Hawke’s Bay has extensive groundwater resources in the nationally significant Heretaunga Aquifer system and the Ruataniwha Basin aquifer system. The water quality of these two important groundwater resources is good. Extensive use is made of these resources for domestic supply, municipal, industrial, processing, stock and irrigation purposes.

More information about Hawke’s Bay aquifers can be found here.

Groundwater takes and stream depletion

Some groundwater takes from wells (groundwater takes) can also affect rivers and streams. These are referred to as ‘stream depleting groundwater takes’.

This can occur where a well is near a river or stream, where the aquifer is relatively shallow and where it does not have a thick confining clay layer. In a number of cases, groundwater takes are managed through minimum flow restrictions which means the take must stop when river flows fall below the minimum flow level.

Tukituki Catchment

In the Tukituki Catchment, a new regime has been introduced through the Tukituki Plan Change and is based on the degree of connection between a bore and the nearby waterway -
Where pumping the well will have a rapid effect on the stream, the take is required to cease when the river reaches its minimum flow. Where the effect is delayed, the take may not be required to cease in full or at all.

Assessment of Stream Depletion Effects

To determine whether or not your proposed take is likely to affect a stream, you may be asked to provide an assessment of stream depletion effects with your application.

The assessment should take into account the
• aquifer characteristics and setting,
• well details,
• distance to the stream or river or to any springs,
• size of the proposed take.

This assessment will need to be prepared by a suitably experienced hydrogeologist or groundwater scientist, with at least tertiary qualifications in groundwater science and/or hydrogeology, and experience in planning and undertaking aquifer tests, and analysing aquifer test data. They should be familiar with and able to use relevant and appropriate analytical models and tools.

Your groundwater scientist should attempt to quantify the stream depletion effect using an appropriate analytical model. This will require accurate aquifer parameters. Sometimes these can only be found by undertaking an aquifer test on your well. This will involving pumping your well for a period of time (usually at least 24 hours) and monitoring the water level response in the pumped well and in a suite of neighbouring wells.

The way in which the water level changes in the wells, and recovers after pumping stops, inform the groundwater scientist of some key aquifer properties, such as how easily water travels through the aquifer (transmissive) and how much water is stored and able to be released (storativity).

Groundwater Takes – Well Interference

An assessment of the potential for your take to affect other people’s wells will be required. When you pump a well, it is possible for it to cause a reduction in the groundwater level of a neighbouring well - called ‘well interference’. This can cause problems for a neighbour if your take draws the water level below the level of their pump. This can be a particular issue in an areas where seasonal drops in groundwater levels  are more significant.

We recommend that you talk to your neighbours and explain your plans before drilling a new well and/or applying for a new water permit. Where it is practical, maximising the distance between your well and your neighbours’ wells is a good idea.

If your proposed take will affect a neighbour’s well, we consider them to be an ‘affected party’ and you will be asked to obtain their written approval. If you can’t get their approval, we will notify the neighbours of your application and give them the chance to make a formal submission.

Here’s a link to some more information about the consent process.

For new wells, you will need to obtain a bore permit (a consent to drill a well) and have drilled the well before you are able to apply for a water permit to take water. The reason for this is so that we can assess the effects of a proposed groundwater take by knowing the depth and construction of the well, its location, and the layers of soil and rock material it goes through. This helps show if the well is penetrating a confined aquifer or an unconfined aquifer.

Water Harvesting and Storage

Harvesting of winter flows in dams and reservoirs is becoming more common. Water is taken/harvested from the catchment at a time when flows are high, eg in winter. Water can then be used from storage in the dam or reservoir when needed, eg over the summer for irrigation.

Because dams can be complex, resource consent applications for water storage projects are generally made with the help of ecologists, hydrologists and engineers, and planners.

We strongly recommend that you contact us to discuss your project before you undertake any detailed design. We can help you confirm the consent requirements for your project, and help identify any potential problems.

Examples of water storage projects and best practice design

Pumping water from a river when it is flowing above its’ mean flow level to fill a reservoir.
The reservoir is located on flat ground near the river, but out of the active channel and floodable areas. The reservoir is a ‘turkey nest’ construction, where a hole is excavated below ground level, with the spoil used to create the walls or bunds.

A dam constructed across a small permanent stream.
The dam is designed so that flood flows are safely conveyed around the dam via a spill way. Fish passage should also be provided up a specially constructed fish ramp. A constant flow of water (a ‘residual flow’) is let through the dam and down the stream at all times to ensure that water is only captured and stored in the dam when there are high flows in the stream.

A weir installed in a small stream.
The weir is designed so that when flows are below mean flow water will continue down the stream and will not be taken into storage. When flows increase and the water level rises above the level of the weir, water is taken into an intake structure and the dam will fill. The dam is designed so that it contains a spill way so that flood flows can be managed.

A dam constructed across a gully.
Rainfall run off collects behind the dam and the dam slowly fills. During high rainfall events an ephemeral stream flows through the gully. The dam is designed and managed so that it does not fill over summer – any rainfall contributions over summer are able to flow through the dam and down the catchment to contribute to flows downstream.

High Flow allocation limit
Even if water is taken over the winter, there is still a limit to how much water can be taken sustainably. High flow events are important because they provide flushing flows which move the river bed materials. They are important for removing algal growth, and maintaining channel depth and shape.

- In the Tukituki Catchment there is now a ‘high flow allocation limit’ for these reasons. A total of 2,000 L/s is available for allocation above high minimum flows (set at median flow), with a maximum of 500 L/s available from each of the upper Tukituki and Waipawa Rivers. More information about the Tukituki Plan can be found here.

- In other catchments, there is currently no set allocation limit for taking water above high minimum flows. Each consent is assessed on its own merits, and will need to be supported with an AEE taking regard of the effects on the river and other water users.

- In the Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu catchments, a plan change process (TANK) is underway which will look at setting sustainable water allocation limits. This might include allocation limits for higher flow water takes. 

Damming of waterways
If you are planning to construct a dam in a river, stream, wetland or lake (an ‘instream dam’) it is likely that you will require a consent from the Regional Council for the works. This includes works within ephemeral stream beds. More information is available here.

Off stream Reservoirs

‘Off stream’ reservoirs are constructed outside of the bed of a stream or river. They are usually sealed or lined to prevent water loss. The often take the form of a ‘turkey nest’ structure, where an excavation on flat ground is made, and walls are constructed to create additional above ground storage capacity.

The construction of an off stream reservoir may not need resource consent from the Regional Council if:
• They are not located within the bed of a river or stream (ephemeral or permanent), wetland or lake; and,
• They do not receive any groundwater seepage inflow, or intercept over-land flows.

1. Resource consent from the Regional Council is required for the water take to fill the reservoir.
2. Resource consent may also be required from the Regional Council if the structure is to be built within any of the Council’s land drainage and flood control scheme areas, or within 6 m of the bed of any stream, river, lake or wetland.
3. Resource consent may also be required if any stream beds are to be diverted or disturbed.

We strongly recommend that you contact us to discuss your project before you undertake any detailed design. We will be able to help you confirm the consent requirements for your project, and help identify any potential issues with what is proposed.

Other consents – large dams & earthworks

If your proposed dam will store more than 20,000 m3 and the dam wall will be 4m or more in height, you will also need to get a building consent. Building consents for dams are processed by the Waikato Regional Council on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

You may also need to get resource consents from your local district council, ie for undertaking earthworks. We recommend that you discuss your project with them before you undertake detailed design work.

Guidance Notes

The relevant guidance notes will assist you in fully completing the application form:
Damming Guidance Notes
Groundwater takes – outside coastal environment PDF
Surface water takes – all Hawke’s Bay
Due to the Tukituki Plan, this catchment has specific rules:
Tukituki water takes
Rules for activities in the coastal strip governed by the Coastal Environment Plan vary from the RRMP:
Groundwater takes in the coastal environment

How to apply

Applications can be lodged via email to the or physically to any of our offices, please check the front page of your applications Form A for full lodgement instructions.

Contact Us

You can contact the Consents Administrator +64 6 835 9200 with any questions about the consenting process.

A resource consent is a legal document. Keep it in a safe place and check it regularly to be sure you are fully aware of conditions.

Consents Telarc


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