Updated wetlands info provides key guidance for landowners

Environment Canterbury has updated its publicly available ‘Canterbury Wetlands’ geographic information system (GIS) layer on Canterbury Maps. The updated layer will provide an important source of information and guidance for both landowners and Environment Canterbury when seeking to identify and protect wetlands. Learn more about what this updated information might mean for you as a landowner.

Benefitting from a significant investment in terms of time and money, the expanded layer maps the location and extent of potential wetlands within Canterbury, based on information collated from a range of sources with varying detail/precision on wetland location, extent, type, condition and significance.

Technical information about the wetland mapping accompanies the GIS layer as metadata.

The Resource Management Act states that the preservation of the natural character of wetlands is a matter of national importance. In giving effect to this, the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) requires consent for new activities that may affect wetlands (eg, where the area of wetlands may be reduced) and requires landowners to identify, and undertake actions, to achieve objectives and targets related to wetlands via Farm Environment Plans (FEPs).

Updated layer provides up-to-date, comprehensive dataset

The GIS layer comprises the latest information held by Environment Canterbury on the extent and condition of confirmed and potential wetlands, including their wetland type. However, it is important to note that there may be additional wetlands within the region that have not been identified and are not included in the information that Environment Canterbury holds.

Consequently, the layer on Canterbury Maps should be considered as showing indicative wetlands. The layer will be updated as new information is collated, including corrections where new information addresses any mapping errors.

Any wetland, regardless of whether it is represented on the map, is governed by the LWRP. Policies and rules about the identification and protection of Canterbury’s wetlands (including for enhancing, restoring or creating a wetland) can be found in the LWRP and the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement.

Importantly, the GIS layer is not a ‘schedule’ in a plan of listed wetlands – ie, this updated GIS layer does not change the existing regulatory framework.

Valuable tool for both staff and landowners

Areas identified as ‘wetland’ can trigger requirements for a consent, or management actions, so the updated GIS layer is a valuable tool for both Environment Canterbury staff and landowners.

It provides the starting point for discussion to clarify exactly where a wetland is/is not, the extent of that wetland (if it exists), and the significance of the wetland values.

In addition, the layer can then be used by consent planners and technical staff to work with consent applicants (and potential applicants) on a case-by-case basis to gather information and confirm the location/extent/values of any wetlands.

For example, this might include site visits by staff to ‘ground truth’ an indicative wetland or for landowners to engage consultants to assist them with consent applications.

Environment Canterbury will continue to update the GIS layer with new information so that it represents the most up-to-date dataset. If you have any concerns about, or would like to discuss, this updated information and how it relates to your property, please contact us on 0800 324 636 or via our contact us form by selecting enquiry type, Biodiversity/biosecurity.

What this updated info might mean for landowners

The following FAQs offer more detail on how Environment Canterbury uses the wetlands information and what it might mean for landowners with a wetland on their property:

Frequently asked questions~~
What are the regional policies and rules related to wetlands?

The Canterbury Regional Policy Statement (RPS) (Chapter 7: Fresh Water and Chapter 9: Ecosystems and Indigenous Biodiversity) includes policies and methods for the identification and protection of wetlands in our region.

The Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) includes rules that not only cover enhancing, restoring and creating wetlands, but also any reduction in wetland area. In giving effect to the LWRP, consents are required for activities that may affect wetlands where the area of a wetland may be reduced or a discharge from air, land or water may affect wetland health.

Why and how does Environment Canterbury collect this wetlands information?

Under Section 35 of the Resource Management Act (RMA), Environment Canterbury is required to gather information, monitor and keep records. This includes monitoring the state of the whole, or any part of, the environment in our region as necessary to carry out our regional council functions.

Our monitoring gathers the information and records we need to develop, implement, evaluate and review our regional policy statements and regional plans.

Technical information about the wetland mapping accompanies the Canterbury Wetlands GIS Layer as metadata.

How does Environment Canterbury use this information?

Our staff uses the wetlands mapping information to assist in consent processing, environmental reporting and for demonstrating on progress towards meeting wetland targets, objectives and outcomes, such as those set out in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, our RPS and the LWRP.

Our updated wetlands GIS layer is not a schedule in a regional plan or policy statement. Rather, it is simply a tool, like our maps of Canterbury’s rivers and streams, lakes, and airsheds, to assist with resource management. The updated layer is made up of the best information we have, including actual and potential wetlands.

Does this release of updated wetlands information change the regulatory framework?

No. The LWRP has a strong rule framework to protect and enhance wetlands. It does not rely on mapping. Rather, any area which meets the narrative definition of a wetland in the LWRP must follow the LWRP framework. Reducing the area of any wetland requires consent from the regional council.

The information provided in the updated wetlands layer is simply to help landowners and members of the public to identify where those rules might apply.

The LWRP makes no reference to the mapping of wetlands. How are they linked?

The RPS is an overarching policy document that sits above the LWRP. The RPS provides the policy and method direction to identify and protect wetlands in our region. The LWRP then contains specific rules for when a consent is required. Any activity which reduces the area of a wetland requires consent from Environment Canterbury.

What if the information on the layer relating to my property is incorrect? What do I do to have this corrected?

Contact Environment Canterbury and ask to speak to a member of the land ecology team. If a staff member is not available at the time, leave your contact details and the reason for your call – staff will be in touch as soon as possible so that areas of concern can be investigated.

We appreciate that some landowners may be concerned if a wetland is identified on their property. You may wish to seek independent advice on the extent of a wetland on your property, including the benefits a wetland provides.

If wetland questions or concerns are raised in a resource consent application, it may also be possible for consents staff to facilitate an assessment/ground-truth of wetlands at no extra cost to the applicant.

Our updated wetlands layer is useful in helping to determine the presence of a wetland, but a detailed investigation may be necessary to confirm the extent of the wetland and any other details about the wetland.

What are the consent implications if a wetland is confirmed on my land?

Where the presence of a wetland is confirmed, and/or the extent of the wetland determined, the next steps depend on the situation:

  • Where the landowner does not intend to do any works that might impact the wetland, and the farm does not have or need an FEP, then there is no need to do anything. Information on the wetland can be stored for future reference.
  • Where the landowner does not intend to do any works that might impact the wetland, and there is an existing FEP, or an FEP is needed, then it needs to include information on the wetland and how impacts of the farming activity on the wetland will be managed in accordance with good management practices (GMP). This may require an existing FEP to be updated to cover these matters. Future audits will consider the management of the wetland in relation to GMP.
  • Where the landowner is considering works that might impact on a wetland, then the requirement for a separate consent is triggered. If there are already other related applications in process, Council officers typically request that the additional application is lodged so that all the applications can be considered together as a single proposal.

In considering any consent application, consent planners and RMA decision-makers consider the existing lawfully established environment when finalising recommendations/decisions.

Find out more

For more information about the ecology of New Zealand’s wetlands, these organisations all have detailed web pages: