Dam Safety Scheme deferred
The start date of the Dam Safety Scheme has been deferred by two years. The Dam Safety Scheme will now start on 1 July 2014.
An independent review of the Dam Safety Scheme in 2010 recommended that the Scheme should be retained and a number of improvements made. These are contained in the Building Amendment Bill No 4. This Bill is currently before Parliament.
Rather than bringing the Dam Safety Scheme into effect, while at the same time proposing significant changes, Cabinet recently agreed to the deferral of the Dam Safety Scheme from 1 July 2012 to 1 July 2014. The Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2008 have been amended to reflect this deferral.
Why is the dam safety scheme being amended?
The dam safety scheme as currently set out in the Building Act 2004 would affect an estimated 1150 dams. An independent review earlier this year found the reach of the proposed dam safety scheme was too broad, imposing rules and compliance costs out of proportion to the risk to New Zealanders.
What are the changes?
The Dam Safety Scheme was subject to an independent review in 2010. The review found the Dam Safety Scheme was too broad, imposing rules and compliance costs out of proportion to the risk to New Zealanders.
The review recommended a number of changes, including increasing the size threshold of large dams to reduce the number of dams in the Dam Safety Scheme and reduce compliance costs, and giving regional authorities the power to investigate and refer dams for classification under the Dam Safety Scheme.
For more information, read the independent review into the Dam Safety Scheme.
What are the proposed changes?
In line with the recommendations in the independent review, changes are proposed to the Dam Safety Scheme to collectively improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Dam Safety Scheme, whilst reducing compliance costs.
Two categories of large dam – ‘classifiable dam’ and ‘referable dam’ – will be introduced. These categories of dam will be used to identify the large dams, as presently defined by the Building Act 2004, that are to be subject to the requirements of the Dam Safety Scheme.
A ‘classifiable dam’ will require automatic classification under the Dam Safety Scheme. A ‘referable dam’ may be referred for classification under the Dam Safety Scheme, if the potential impact of the dam is considered great enough. Regional authorities will be given the discretion to investigate and refer a referable dam for classification where there are reasonable grounds to do so.
This better targeting of dams to be included in the Dam Safety Scheme – either automatically by virtue of their size, or as required by regional authorities based on risk factors - ensures the costs imposed by the Dam Safety Scheme are balanced with the potential risks to people and property.
There are also six amendments to improve the administrative efficiency of the Dam Safety Scheme by:
- simplifying how dam height is measured
- reducing the frequency for which Dam Safety Assurance Programmes have to be reviewed by owners of medium potential impact dams, from five to seven years
- shifting from a strict compliance requirement for Annual Dam Compliance Certificates, to a requirement that non-compliance, and any remedial action necessary to resolve it, is disclosed
- removing references to earthquake-prone and flood-prone dams in the Building Act
- requiring recognised engineers to notify regional authorities where they consider that a dam is dangerous and
- enabling the recognised engineer responsible for certifying a Dam Safety Assurance Programme to determine the appurtenant structures for the dam.
Further information on these proposed changes »
Will this impact on public safety?
Public safety is a priority. The amended Dam Safety Scheme will provide an efficient and effective way of managing the risk of large dams and those that pose a particular risk to people living or working downstream.
In terms of the two year deferral, Regional Authorities will continue to have the power to deal with any dam that poses an immediate danger (under Section 157 of the Building Act 2004) over the interim period.
What happens in other countries?
Worldwide, there is a trend to introduce regulatory frameworks for dams and the principles of the New Zealand Dam Safety Scheme are in line with international trends.
The principles are to provide clear and comprehensive rules to ensure dams are operated in a safe manner, ongoing monitoring and maintenance occurs, dams are certified as safe by competent practitioners, and there is a balance between risk-management and compliance costs.
General information on the Dam Safety Scheme »