Altering river flows is not an issue in North Otago, as far as the Otago Regional Council is aware.
An Environment Canterbury spokesperson confirmed yesterday an investigation has been launched into allegations a group of people altered water flow on the Pareora River in South Canterbury on Saturday, by building a weir near a water gauge in order to avoid irrigation restrictions.
Otago Regional Council chief executive Peter Bodeker said he was not aware of any cases where river flows had been altered intentionally in North Otago.
“We haven’t seen that in our area. If anything like that did happen, they would be in breach of the Resource Management Act because they are breaking the flow of the river. Disturbing the bed of a river is pretty serious, the penalties for that sort of interference would be pretty severe.”
He said the only case he was aware of that comes close to the alleged incident on the Pareora River came at the Kakanui River about three weeks ago, when a group built a structure out of rocks to increase the depth of an area where they were swimming.
“It turns out they only used a few rocks … it certainly wasn’t intentional.”
At the time, Mr Bodeker said farmers who were in the process of irrigating their land noticed the change in water flow, turned off their irrigators and notified the regional council.
The group was spoken to, with no further action taken.
The regional council kept a close eye on river flows, said Mr Bodeker.
“We’re monitoring these rivers all the time … they’re all getting monitored on a 10-minute basis. If you all of a sudden see it rise, for example, you’ll ask why it’s only gone up at that site.”
He confirmed river flows in the region were currently above minimum flows.
“The North Otago rivers have responded pretty well.
“We’ve have a bit of rain and that’s certainly helped, but if it doesn’t rain more over the next two weeks or so we might be back in the situation we were in in January.”
By Daniel Birchfield