Waterways on or by schools

Information, resources and operational advice for schools.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • Property Managers

Boards need to take special care with waterways on or next to your school. Waterways include areas like rivers, the sea coast, wetlands and marginal strips. You need to ensure the school’s activities don’t damage the waterways, or overuse resources.

Identifying waterways around your school

Your school might have some of these waterway features on it or next to it:

  • the sea coast
  • a lake
  • a river or stream
  • a wetland
  • drains
  • a reserve, strip or margin set aside for conservation, public access or recreation
  • a flood management area
  • a storm water catchment management area
  • an area of land identified with significant natural environmental features or value.

The waterway may be noted on your local regional or district council plan. It may have specific controls and limitations.

You must take special care with school activities to avoid:

  • disturbing habitats
  • reducing water flow
  • causing erosion
  • contamination.

Doing property work around waterways

Before doing any work that might affect a waterway, check with your local council. The work might include:

  • building a structure, like a shed, classroom, fence, bridge or dam
  • laying a road
  • installing pipes or cables
  • planting or removing trees and other plants
  • putting some property into our disposal process.

Find out if there are restrictions around the waterway. We recommend you get specialist planning advice before starting.

Releasing surplus property for disposal

Looking after waterways

Prevent damage to waterways by making sure:

  • buildings or structures don’t interfere with a flood bank or flood plain, for example, by redirecting floodwater
  • there’s good planting on the edges of streams and rivers to increase bank stability
  • barriers and access structures are in good condition
  • contaminants, such as paint, don’t get into the waterway
  • dams, weirs or culverts allow fish to move up- and downstream.

For more information about looking after waterways, contact your local council or your property advisor at your local Ministry office.

Taking water

If you take water, such as from a lake or a bore, make sure you don’t:

  • cause a loss of habitat by taking too much
  • increase the risk of floods by damming or diverting water
  • use up an entire underground aquifer.

Protecting the waterway while taking water

Look after the waterway by doing these things.

  • Always fit a screen on the intake so fish won’t be affected.
  • Make sure the intake doesn’t block the river or stream and fish can move freely.
  • Clear debris from the intake regularly.
  • Make sure the lid and casing of a bore are properly sealed so the underground aquifer won’t be contaminated.

Contact your local council about the rules for taking water.

Council maps and websites — Local Government NZ(external link)

Draining your swimming pool and safely discharging water

Pool water contains chemicals that can harm the environment. How to maintain a school pool has details on how to properly drain your pool to avoid creating harmful effects. You will also find options you should pursue before possibly discharging water into a waterway or storm water system. Schools should wherever possible, discharge pool water to the municipal sewer

Protecting the quality of storm water

Storm water is rainwater that’s carried to a waterway. Storm water isn’t treated. Make sure the storm water system is kept clean and safe by:

  • pouring all liquid waste, such as cleaning water, down a sink or toilet
  • not allowing wastewater to be discharged into the storm water system
  • not tipping oil, paint or chemicals down a storm water drain (wash paintbrushes in an inside sink)
  • keeping the school free of litter (so it can’t be washed into the drains)
  • washing cars and equipment on grass
  • taking care when discharging water from the school pool as it contains chemicals that can harm the environment
  • taking care when spreading agrichemicals.

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