water and rocks

Farmers - act now to protect your water rights

By Bruce McCorkindale

Act now to protect your water rights – or pay a fortune later!

A recent meeting between AbacusBio and Michael Win and Land Title specialist John van Bolderen from Wilkinson Rodgers Lawyers in Dunedin highlighted some looming potential issues for many Otago farmers – as at the end of September 2016 the ORC said there were 403 deemed permits left to be dealt with!

Each deemed permit provides water to numerous farmers and each farmer needs to ensure they have their rights protected. If you act now you should be able to get everything sorted for $500-$2500 with the low lower end of that range being farmers who have all the documentation and the high end if you have very little.

The issue is about water supply that has a past history involving “Miners rights”. The Deemed Water Permits automatically expire in 2021 and with them all your unregistered rights.

For the many farmers on private schemes, or with private water takes using deemed permits (the old miners’ rights), the two things you urgently need to get dealt with are your water permit (your right to extract) from ORC and your Section 417 Certificate under the RMA (your right to convey water over other people’s land). If your private take only passes over your own land, then you may not need a Section 417 Certificate unless you think you may sell some of that land in the future.

There is likely to be a big backlog of applications in 2021 so it is important to get started on this process now so that these rights can be registered on your title before the cut-off date in 2021.

Without getting into all the legal speak it is comparatively easy to get a 417 Certificate now – if you delay and miss the cut off then you will need to pay the cost of getting legal easements drawn up over each piece of land the water conveyance travels through which can be very expensive.

If the water goes through DoC land or through a Council road reserve, in some instances the land owner could (and has) demanded what they think the water is worth to you to gain an easement – rather than just the legal cost of doing it.

If your water supply is totally reliant on an irrigation company then the company should be taking care of these issues – the opinion from WR Law was that while this should be the case, not all irrigation companies appear to have all their matters sorted so keep asking questions of company directors and get written assurances from their legal advisers as to what their position is.

If you are unsure about your current position, then I encourage you to give Michael or John a call on (03) 477 9844 or e-mail John at john.vanbolderen@wrlawyers.co.nz