The Surface Water Strategy contains the Council’s goals and objectives for surface water management in Christchurch.

Surface water includes all freshwater ecosystems above ground: stormwater, springs, rivers, streams, lakes, and associated wetlands.  It includes natural, artificial, and ephemeral waterways, but although intricately connected, it excludes groundwater and the sea. 

In Christchurch and Banks Peninsula we have extensive surface water resources which include:

  • Two lakes (Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora and Lake Forsyth/Wairewa)
  • Over 78km of rivers (the Avon/Otakaro, Heathcote/Opawaho, Stxy/Puharakekenui, and parts of the Waimakariri and Halswell/Huritini)
  • Over 2,605km of streams and tributaries
  • Many springs
  • Wetlands.

The Surface Water Strategy was adopted by  the Council following public consultation in 2009.

The Surface Water Strategy establishes the Council's goals and objectives for surface water management and includes an implementation programme, which sets out what the Council will do to meet the goals and objectives.   The Council will:

  • Manage stormwater in a manner that supports the goals. Stormwater run-off is the chief driver of water quality in urban catchments, and stormwater management is crucial to reducing flood events.  The Council will manage stormwater in a manner that supports the Strategy’s goals.
  • Develop Stormwater Management Plans (SMPs), formally called Integrated Catchment Management Plans (ICMPs). SMPs will set water quality objectives for catchments, and establish how stormwater will be managed to meet those requirements.
  • Review development standards and the existing Council planning framework. The Council will review the City Plan, District Plan, and other Council planning documents, and consider changes to meet the goals and objectives identified.
  • Minimise sources of pollutants. Minimising the sources of pollutants will be crucial to improving the water quality of Christchurch’s surface water resources.  The Council will focus on improving its own practices, leading by example.
  • Implement a co-ordinated community education and engagement programme. Community understanding of surface water management – the issues, costs, benefits, and what individuals can do – is essential to achieving the goals and objectives of the Strategy.  The Council will work with Environment Canterbury to engage with and raise awareness amongst the community about surface water.
  • Undertake a programme of investigations.


Goal 1: Improve the water quality of our surface water resources

  • Objective 1.1: Implement stormwater treatment so that receiving waters in urban areas at least meet USEPA water quality standards for copper, zinc, and lead.
  • Objective 1.2: Meet NRRP water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, conductivity, suspended solids, turbidity, nitrate-nitrite, ammonia, phosphorus, and E.coli.
  • Objective 1.3: Remove pollutants, including sediment, at source where possible.
  • Objective 1.4: Ensure there are no ecological impacts in receiving waterways from construction activities.
  • Objective 1.5: Protect springs and their surrounding habitats from the adverse effects of land-use activities.

Goal 2: Reduce the adverse effects of flooding

  • Objective 2.1: Maintain the flood storage and flow capacity of ponding areas, wetlands and floodplains that remain largely undeveloped.
  • Objective 2.2: Limit further development in high flood risk areas.
  • Objective 2.3: Limit further development and mitigate the effects of flooding in moderate risk areas.
  • Objective 2.4: Manage the effects of development to avoid an increased flood risk on public and private land downstream.

Goal 3: Improve the ecosystem health of surface water resources

  • Objective 3.1: Protect existing surface water habitats and indigenous species.
  • Objective 3.2: Restore a range of indigenous riparian and aquatic habitats and species.
  • Objective 3.3: Ensure maintenance of waterways and their margins supports their ecosystem health.
  • Objective 3.4: Manage pest species in an effective and efficient manner.

Goal 4: Protect and restore Ngāi Tahu values associated with surface water resources

  • Objective 4.1: Protect, maintain and restore the mauri (life force) of waterways.
  • Objective 4.2: Protect and restore mahinga kai species and habitats.
  • Objective 4.3: Maintain and restore access to traditional surface water resources and support their sustainable cultural harvest.
  • Objective 4.4: Involve Ngāi Tahu, as Kaitiaki, in surface water management activities.

Goal 5: Support a range of recreation activities on and around waterways

  • Objective 5.1 Integrate surface water into the public open space network.
  • Objective 5.2 Improve public access where possible.
  • Objective 5.3: Manage recreation activities to ensure they are not detrimental to significant ecological and Ngāi Tahu cultural values.

Goal 6: Protect heritage values associated with surface water

  • Objective 6.1: Protect heritage places, values and archaeological,  wāhi tapu and wāhi taonga sites associated with surface water. 
  • Objective 6.2: Manage Council-owned assets with heritage value in accordance with the ICOMOS  NZ charter.

Goal 7: Protect and enhance the landscape values of surface water

  • Objective 7.1: Protect the outstanding natural landscapes and features of surface water.
  • Objective 7.2: Enhance the natural character and visual amenity of waterways.
  • Objective 7.3: Ensure surface water management enhances the ‘Garden City’ image of Christchurch.

Goal 8: Support community involvement in surface water management

  • Objective 8.1: Support community groups, projects and individuals to further the Strategy’s goals.
  • Objective 8.2: Increase awareness and understanding of surface water management.
  • Objective 8.3: Engage the community when planning and designing surface water management activities.
  • Objective 8.4: Learn from and build on community expertise and experience.

Goal 9: Manage stormwater in an efficient manner that supports Goals 1 to 8

  • Objective 9.1: Ensure the design, development, and maintenance of Council’s infrastructure supports Goals 1 to 8.
  • Objective 9.2: Coordinate the provision and maintenance of stormwater infrastructure with other Council infrastructure. 

Further information

If you would like further information, a printed or CD copy of the Strategy please contact us or email: