Minimum Flow Plan Change

We are taking a new approach to deliver minimum flow water plan changes to the Arrow, Manuherikia and Upper Cardrona catchments. Up to this point, we have been consulting with the community on these plan changes on an individual catchment basis. The new approach will see ORC bring this work together to notify a single plan change.

Residual Flows for Surface Water Takes

The Water Plan currently includes provisions that we use when we set residual flow conditions on a surface water permit.

We are developing a change to the Regional Plan: Water for Otago (Water Plan) to address the uncertainty and lack of flexibility, which currently exists in those provisions. A residual flow is the amount of water that must be left in the river at the point where water is taken.

Currently, when Council considers an application to take water, the Water Plan requires an assessment of whether a residual flow is required.  If required, then a condition is applied to the permit. 

Since becoming operative in the Water Plan in 2004, we have noticed some issues with these polices. We know there is confusion about:

  • When a residual flow condition applies to a water permit,
  • How to calculate what a residual flow level will be,
  • What the difference is between minimum and residual flows and how they work together. 

There is a lack of flexibility when it comes to where a residual flow is measured.  Currently the measurement must be at the point of water take, which sometimes isn’t practical. This lack of flexibility also has limitations for those wanting to measure a residual flow as a group.

Also the existing policy requires natural character and ecological values to be considered when setting a residual flow condition.  What we have heard is that these are not the only values which people would like to see being considered when setting a residual flow. 

What the Plan Change hopes to do:

Through this plan change Council are seeking to provide certainty by:

  • Providing a method to calculate a residual flow;
  • Setting out a broader list of values for consideration in assessment, including consideration of downstream users;
  • Enabling the measurement of residual flow to be set in practical locations and for a measurement to enable a group of permits.

What is the process:

Consultation – February 2017

In February 2017 Council began consultation on this plan change. However, we heard during the consultation that the purpose of this plan change was unclear to many people.

A summary of the feedback received during these consultation sessions is provided below under background information.

Consultation – August 2017

To ensure there is better understanding, we conducted another round of consultation to clarify the purpose of the plan change, and to seek feedback to help shape this plan change to address uncertainty and lack of flexibility in the existing Water Plan polices.

We undertook ten community discussion sessions across the region, held between August 4th and August 11th.  We also gave the opportunity for people to provide written feedback to Council, which closed on the 31st August.  The feedback received during this period has now been summarised.  You can download the report below.

Summary of community consultation August 2017

In addition, we also prepared a short (3 minutes) video which responds to the following questions:

  • Why is the plan change needed?
  • What outcome are we looking for?
  • What benefits are there?
  • Who does this apply to?
  • What do we want from the Otago community?


If after watching the video you still have questions around the plan change, or are just interested in finding out more, please contact our customer services team on 0800 474 082 or email

Next Steps

We are now developing options for the plan change. It is anticipated the next round of consultation will be early 2018, where we will seek feedback to refine a draft plan change.

Background Information:

Consultation Summary, February 2017 (347 KB)
Quick Facts – Clarifying Residual Flows Plan Change (199 KB)
Overview of Existing Provisions, July 2017 (165KB)
Community Consultation Presentation August 2017 (229 KB)

Contact us

Phone: 0800 474 082 and ask for:

  • Denise Anderson – Manager Water Quantity Planning
  • Lisa Cain – Senior Policy Analyst


Post: Otago Regional Council, Private Bag 1954, Dunedin 9054, Attention: Residual Flows for Surface Water Takes

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