Resource Management Act: RMA Link: Processes: Details

The RMAlink project aims to make community participation in all Resource Management Act processes more straightforward and less time-consuming. More effective participation from those with a concern for the environment will contribute towards improving environmental outcomes nationwide.

Processes: Details

Hosted by:

Wellington Community Network
Subject National Policy / Legislation Processes

Text Water Conservation Orders

Water conservation orders are a means of obtaining protection for water bodies with outstanding values. Orders can be applied to rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, aquifers, or geothermal water. They can be used to protect habitat values, fishery values, wild and scenic character, and values for recreational, historic, spiritual, cultural purposes, including significance to Maori.

Water Conservation Orders were introduced to the Water and Soil Conservation Act 1967, by a 1981 amendment providing for Wild and Scenic Rivers status. These provisions were incorporated into Part IX of the RMA (Sections 199-217). These sections outline the process for dealing with applications. The EDS publication Community Guide to the Resource Management Act 1991 contains a useful flow chart clearly showing all the steps in the process.

Existing consents for discharges or water takes are not affected by a WCO. However, after its introduction, a WCO must be taken into account when subsequent applications for consents or permits are considered. It must also be taken into account when policy statements and plans are reviewed.

13 rivers, or parts of rivers, are now protected by orders, including the Buller, Rakaia, Rangitikei, and Kawarau. The Buller order was approved in 2001 after 14 years of negotiations. A Water Conservation Order was finally approved in March 2004 for the Upper Mohaka River. This application was first lodged by the Council of North Island Acclimatisation Societies now Fish and Game New Zealand in 1987. An order for the Motueka River was approved in May 2004. An application for the Rangitata is currently being considered.

Submissions to a special tribunal considering an application for a Water Conservation Order, or an amendment or revocation of an order, are made using Form 30. Download this from the MFE or Quality Planning website.



Peart, R. (2003) Community Guide to the Resource Management Act.
Environmental Defence Society, Auckland.
Pages 44-46 cover Water Conservation Orders.

Harris, R. (ed) (2004) Handbook of Environmental Law.
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, Wellington
Pages 229-231

Web-Based Resources

Resources: The NZ Recreational Canoeing Association site has articles posted about the Association's involvement in current Water Conservation Order hearings.

Resources: See 'Other RMA Processes" section.
Explanation of WCO process, with useful flowchart.


Relevant Case Law