Community unhappy with draft water bylaw

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Members of the Waitaki District Council were asked to reject the Draft Waitaki Water Supply Bylaw 2014 on Wednesday and to consult with people involved in rural water schemes.

Councillors listened to verbal submissions on the draft bylaw and heard several times from a strong contingent of rural submitters how the bylaw catered only for urban users.

A simple reference to agriculture under the ‘extraordinary use’ of the water supply was highlighted by Ross Ewing, a past president of Federated Farmers and chairman of the Kauru Hill water committee.

“This is a vitally important part of our rural sector and there is one little paragraph covering rural agriculture.”

Mr Ewing said he considered the bylaw to be “the divorce papers of rural water schemes.”

Councillors were reminded that historically water schemes were put in by rural communities to provide water for stock. This ‘strong, collaborative ethos’ which has seen Dads, uncles and neighbours manage and police their own water supplies was highlighted by submitter Bill Malcolm, who said council was trying to put two mindsets into one bylaw.

“The rural sector sees it as a cooperative and those schemes that don’t have not survived,” he said.

Barrie McMillan, a member of the Herbert/Waianakarua water scheme, explained his dissatisfaction with agriculture being classified as an extraordinary use under the bylaw.

In his submission he referred to wording in the bylaw which says “The council is under no obligation to provide for extraordinary use of water” and went on to say that council must realise that as it pushed for more control of rural water schemes, it was taking responsibility for the supply of water to ‘some 500,000 stock that depend on water from rural water schemes.’

“It would be an interesting conversation between the council and Ministry for Primary Industries, or the RSPCA, as the council tried to explain its lack of obligation to supply stock with water.”

Assets group manager, Neil Jorgenson, explained that the bylaw gave council the ‘technical tools’ to stop the mismanagement of supply.

Mayor Gary Kircher said that there were some good submissions presented and that there would be changes made to the bylaw.

Council management have to decide whether to amend the draft bylaw to better include rural water schemes, or to proceed with the bylaw in its current form and produce a second document relating to rural water schemes.

By LINDA MCCARTHY