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The Value of Fresh Water Rights in New Zealand

The Value of Fresh Water Rights in New Zealand

1 July 2020

The Valuers’ Education and Integrity Foundation (VEIF) is proud to present the final report prepared by Dr Gary Garner: The Value of Fresh Water Rights in New Zealand.

<br> The Value of Fresh Water Rights in New Zealand


The ownership of water in New Zealand is increasingly coming under scrutiny. There are many stakeholders involved often having different perspectives. In addition, the legal position is frequently found to be arguable and unclear. Despite accelerating regulatory and legislative control (particularly that related to the Resource Management Act) and various policy initiatives being instigated (in particular those involving the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management), the application of water rights in New Zealand has become increasingly complex and uncertain. Furthermore, differing localised regulations applying to water and its access across New Zealand districts and councils are being enforced by local government authorities whom perhaps not unsurprisingly struggle to carry out their responsibilities.

Further complexity is brought about by a paradoxical state of affairs whereby tradability of water rights by individuals can result in the potential misalignment of responsibilities with riparian landowners. This is even further complexed by various qualifications / memorials appearing on property titles.

It follows that this multifaceted scenario significantly impacts agricultural land use options and farming productivity, which in turn affects the process and complexity of rural land valuation. This has resulted in considerable debate, misunderstanding, and uncertainty - presenting significant challenges to valuation and related professions. There is therefore literally a “pandora’s box” of connected issues which ultimately find themselves expressed in a perplexing array of principles and doctrines. Along with considerations relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and tangata whenua more generally, they all affect an extensive range of key property considerations including for example, land tenure, property rights, water allocation, and land use control.

Keeping abreast of developments in the foregoing areas, along with taking account of any impacts – both now or in the future – is extremely challenging. However, equally, it presents itself as an ideal opportunity to invoke VE&IF’s role in commissioning, funding and resourcing quality and robust research and educational material within the scope of property valuation and property related issues. The impact of water rights in New Zealand is undoubtedly emerging as a vexing and contentious matter and warrants the timely provision of an appropriate educational resource for all Valuers, and Rural Valuers in particular.