Heretaunga Plains Groundwater takes – What is Actual and Reasonable use?

Posted By HBFA | November 10, 2023

 Those of you who recently received a letter from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council which stated that the regional council is going to be allocating Heretaunga Plains groundwater based on ‘Actual and Reasonable’ use may be wondering what that is, and why the council is applying it to these consent applications? 

In a nutshell, ‘Actual and Reasonable’ use is a maximum annual volume that will be specified on the water permit that the regional council is currently processing, and that number: 

 The exact definition is shown on the last page of this document. 

So what does that mean in practice? 

Irrigators that don’t have accurate water meter data from 2010-2020 will likely be allocated the smallest volume of water, of either what their expiring consent allowed, or the crop water demand calculated by IRRICALC. 

Growers whose maximum annual water use between May 2010 and 2020 is less than the crop water demand calculated by IRRICALC, would likely be allocated the maximum annual volume taken. 

Some growers may not be allocated the same volume of water they have been previously. Below are some examples of what your numbers could look like,  and what that could mean for the volume of water you are allocated in your new water permit: 

Why is this happening now? 

Because of the TANK (Tuetaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu) Catchment Plan Change was notified in May 2020. It classifies the Heretaunga Plains aquifer as over-allocated (in terms of water quantity), and under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, action must be taken to get it back to a fully or under-allocated state. This means that the volume of water allocated from it must be reduced, and applying a definition of ‘Actual and Reasonable’ is how it is proposed to achieve this. 

Is the TANK Plan under appeal? 

Yes it is, which means the definition of ‘Actual and Reasonable’ may change slightly but, from the date of notification (May 2020), the plan changes has some legal effect, which means the council must take it into account when processing applications. 

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 is substantially given effect to in applying the IRRICALC model, the Council will take into account any water meter data that is applicable. 

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

The IRRICALC model can be accessed here: Irrigation Requirements (mycatchment.info) 

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