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Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Quantity Area

Water permits within the Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Quantity Area are part of a large group of replacement consents affected by the TANK Plan Change (Plan Change 9).

Groundwater applications - December 2023

The Tūtaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū (TANK) Plan Change decision was released in September 2022 and introduces new provisions to manage water allocation from this area.

This decision establishes that the Heretaunga Plains Aquifer is to be managed as an over-allocated resource, and that when assessing applications to replace existing consents the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council must consider Actual and Reasonable Use.

We have contacted people who have applied to take and use groundwater across the Heretaunga Plains by email on 7 December 2023.

If you have applied to replace an expired groundwater take consent in the Heretaunga Plains area you should now have received information on the process from here and an assessment of your Actual and Reasonable Use volume.

We understand that these estimates could represent a significant change to your current water allocation and that you will need time to consider this. We won’t be making any decisions on your application until we hear back from you. If we don't hear from you, we will be back in touch with you to follow up on this in February 2024.

Due to the large size of the group of applications we are processing, the best way to get in touch with us is by email at This will allow us to check your application details and respond to you more efficiently.

Water permits within the Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Quantity Area are part of a large group of replacement consents affected by the Proposed TANK Plan Change (Plan Change 9).

A decision on the Proposed TANK Plan Change was made and this was notified by the Council on 9th September 2022.

The Proposed TANK Plan Change will not be fully operative until all appeals on it are resolved. Despite this, its rules have legal effect. This means that these proposed rules must be complied with, or if not, that resource consents are obtained.

You can view the decision and information about the appeal process on our TANK decision page.

The decision on the TANK Plan Change sets out the way in which water should be allocated from the Heretaunga Plains Aquifer. It also makes it clear that the aquifer is to be managed as an over-allocated resource, and that reductions in the amount of water allocated from it are required.

The TANK Plan Change will need to be considered alongside the Regional Resource Management Plan provisions until it becomes fully operative.

The TANK Plan introduces changes to some of the relevant rules and provisions that relate to water takes in the Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Quantity Area. Of note, the decision has confirmed:

  • The need to manage the Heretaunga Plains Aquifer as an over-allocated resource, and reduce the amount of groundwater that is allocated.
  • Base the allocation of groundwater from the Heretaunga Plains Aquifer on ‘Actual and Reasonable Use’, this being the least of:
    • what is currently consented;
    • what has been recorded as having been used over the period 2010-2020 (being a maximum annual amount); and,
    • what is calculated as necessary using the irrigation demand model Irricalc
  • Confirmed that Zone 1 groundwater takes are to be managed as if they are surface water takes and:
    • continue to be subject to minimum flows, or,
    • if the take is not already subject to a minimum flow, there needs to be a contribution to a flow or habitat enhancement scheme when they are available to offset its stream depletion effects, or it will become subject to a minimum flow.
  • Groundwater takes (not in Zone 1 areas) are all considered to contribute to stream depletion across all surface water bodies in the Heretaunga Plains including the Ngaruroro River. They are not managed with minimum flows, but they will need to join or contribute to flow or habitat enhancement schemes once they are available.

There are 16 appeals against the Proposed Plan Change. These could lead to further changes. Information about these appeals can be found on our TANK decision page.

Replacement water permit group

We are currently processing a large group of around 800 applications to replace consents which have expired. While your consent has expired, it can generally still be used until a decision on the application is made. If you are unsure of the status of your consent, please contact us and we can confirm this.

Given the Proposed Plan has been considered by independent decision makers and as a decision has now been issued, we intend to continue to process the group of replacement applications. Now that the basis for determining Actual and Reasonable use has been confirmed, we intend to undertake this assessment and advise you of the outcome – for further information see our latest update above, or our FAQs below.


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You have received an email because you have applied to replace a consent to take groundwater from the Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Area.

Attached to your email will be a form that outlines how we have calculated your estimated Actual and Reasonable Use volume.

Once you have your email, you should:

  • Check that the details are correct and match what you want to use water for - for example, the right crop type and area, and well number.
  • Look over the Actual and Reasonable Use volume assessment form – check that the actual use data is in line with what you expect, and that there is no missing data.
  • Think about the volume proposed, and any changes you have made that might mean you will use more water than what you did in the past. 
  • Let us know if you accept the volume proposed, or if you intend to provide additional information to justify a higher volume.

Email us at and quote your application number in the subject line.

Don’t worry if you can’t get back to us straight away. We will be back in touch with you to follow up on this before the end of February.

The TANK Plan Change won’t affect your existing resource consent until it’s time to renew it, or unless the Regional Council initiates a review.

Yes, provided you applied to replace your consent within the timeframes required, you can continue to exercise your existing (expired) consent until a decision has been issued on your replacement application. If you are unsure, please contact us at

The rules in the decision version of the TANK Plan Change (issued 9 September 2022) are now the rules with legal effect.

The rules will become ‘operative’ when the appeals on the decision, or appeals on a certain section of the decision, have been resolved or withdrawn.


Until the TANK Plan Change rules are operative, both the TANK Plan Change rules and the operative Regional Resource Management Plan (RRMP) apply. This means applications will need to consider and address the relevant rules from both the TANK Plan Change and the RRMP.

 ‘Actual and Reasonable’ use is a test brought in by the TANK plan change. It will be used to determine how much water can be re-allocated to you.

Actual and Reasonable Use:

Can’t be more than the volume specified on your expiring water permit, or the amount you applied for if that is for less water;

AND, if either of these numbers are available, the smaller of these numbers:

  • The maximum annual volume of water taken and recorded by an accurate water meter between May 2010 and May 2020; or
  • For irrigation takes, the crop water requirement calculated using the crop water calculator IrriCalc (which assumes 80 percent efficiency and a 95 percent reliability of supply).

The exact definition is provided below in the FAQ: Full Actual and Reasonable Use definition – TANK (Plan Change 9) Decision Version

In practice, this approach seeks to ‘claw back’ water that is allocated to consents, but which has not been used. This will mean that many consent holders will not be re-allocated the same volume of water they have been previously.

The TANK (Tūtaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngauroro and Karamū) Catchment Plan Change (Plan Change 9) was notified in May 2020. It classifies the Heretaunga Plains aquifer as being over-allocated (ie more water is allocated for abstraction than is sustainable) and looks to reduce the level of allocation using the ‘Actual and Reasonable’ volume approach.

Find more information on our #tank page.

If you have a consent with a take rate of less than five litres a second, then a water meter may not previously have been required. In the absence of any actual water use data, we will take the lesser of the volume specified on your current consent and the estimated crop water demand volume (from IrriCalc).

The IrriCalc estimate is based on the crop and area specified on your previous consent (not necessarily what you applied for), and may be adjusted to take into account the actual irrigation area and water use patterns in your area.

You can use the Irricalc model at

We understand that some properties have been badly affected by the Cyclone and in some cases this will mean that more water is required to enable annual crops to be irrigated over the next few years.

While we can’t allocate more water than previously allocated, your new consent can allow you to take up to the volume that was specified in the old consent, with any Actual and Reasonable Use based allocation reduction phased in over time.

If you are in this situation, please let us know by emailing Please provide your application number and explain how your need for water on your property will be affected by your cyclone recovery.

If you accept Council’s proposed annual volume, respond by email to and let us know. We will complete processing of your consent application and issue a new water permit that includes this annual volume.

Let us know that you do not accept the Actual and Reasonable Use annual volume, and if you intend to provide further information to support allocation of a higher volume.

We understand that you will need time to consider this and respond with information. We will be back in touch with you in February 2024 if we haven’t heard from you. We won’t make any decisions on your application until we have heard from you and considered any information that you wish to provide.

The TANK Plan sets out some circumstances where a higher allocation may be considered. These include:

  • The water use data available is inaccurate or insufficient. This is defined as being:  

where there is no or incomplete water use data for an irrigation season or, for other water uses, a water year, within the ten year period up to 2020 that would otherwise be the year reflecting their maximum annual amount;

where there is no or incomplete seasonal water use recorded as a result of water use restrictions or bans being imposed by HBRC or as a result of consent conditions.

  • Water use is required as part of a programmed or staged development specified within the existing water permit or associated resource consent. It needs to be demonstrated that existing investment is dependent on additional allocation and it is necessary for the ongoing operation of the activity for which consent was granted. For rootstock, there must be evidence of a contract for the supply of that rootstock that was in place as of 2 May 2020 (TANK POL 34).
  • The completeness of the water permit and water meter data record (Rule TANK 8(a))
  • The climate record and whether that resulted in water use restrictions or bans being imposed (eg minimum flow bans) (Rule TANK 8(b)).
  • Effects of water sharing arrangements (Rule TANK 8(c)).
  • Crop rotation/development phases (Rule TANK 8(d)).

We will be looking for clear and robust information, and where possible will cross check this with independent information sources (eg aerial photography, internal records). Information you could provide might include records of harvest/receipts, copies of lease documents and water use data from a lessee, and a corroborating statement from that party.

Your telemetry provider may provide a platform for storing and displaying your water use data.

You can also check the data you have provided to Hawke's Bay Regional Council. Go to where you will find a page called Water Meter System. Registered users can log in and see graphs of their reported usage.

You can withdraw your application at any time, by filling in and returning this form:

Withdraw Application/Surrender Resource Consent Form

Please think carefully about withdrawing your application. Once you do, your old consent will expire. Because the Heretaunga Plains Aquifer is over-allocated, it will be very difficult to obtain a new water permit in the future. We recommend that you seek professional advice from a lawyer, planner or your industry representative.

Actual and Reasonable in relation to applications to take and use water means:

a) no more than the quantity specified on the permit due for renewal or any lesser amount applied for; and the least of either:

b) the maximum annual amount as measured by accurate water meter data in the ten years preceding 2 May 2020 if accurate water meter data is available. (If insufficient or no accurate data is available either clause a) or c) will apply)


c) for irrigation takes, the quantity required to meet the modelled crop water demand for the irrigated area with an efficiency of application of no less than 80% as specified by the IRRICALC water demand model (if it is available for the crop and otherwise with an equivalent method), and to a 95% reliability of supply where the irrigated area is:

(i) no more than in the permit due for renewal, or any lesser amount applied for, and in the case of Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Quantity Area, is not more than the amount irrigated in the ten years preceding 2 May 2020 and

(ii) evidence is supplied to demonstrate that the area has, and can continue to be, irrigated and the permit substantially given effect to. 

In applying the IRRICALC model, the Council will take into account any water meter data that is applicable.

We acknowledge the uncertainty about what is happening with your water permit may be challenging especially if you have also been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

There is support available for you and your whānau if you need it, including: 

  • Log on to to find a service close to you. 

  • Call or text Need to Talk 1737 any time to talk with a trained counsellor. 

  • At most general practices you can phone and book in to see a Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP), a registered mental health professional who provides advice and support promoting self-management, and connects people to other services they may need. Every day, HIPs have appointments that are not pre-booked so you can phone a general practice where you are enrolled and book in on that day. 

  • The Depression Helpline – Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202 to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions. 

  • Youthline – Call 0800 376 633, text 234, email, or go to for an online chat. 

  • The Lowdown – Text 5626 for support to help young people recognise and understand depression or anxiety. 

  • Healthline – Call 0800 611 116 for health advice and information. 

  • Alcohol Drug Helpline – Call 0800 787 797 to speak with a trained counsellor. 

  • Tips and support, go to

  • You can download the Groov and Headstrong wellbeing apps free for android and Apple phones. Just go to Google Play or the Apple app store. 

  • Rural Support Trusts – a local Rural Support Trust (RST) is a great place to access free and confidential support and advice. This nationwide network, run by local people, helps farming families and rural communities. RSTs have facilitators trained to recognise issues with mental health and wellbeing. They can also put you in touch with services including health information or financial support. You can give them a call to talk through your options. Call 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) to arrange a free and confidential chat at a place that suits you, or visit


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