Councillors to lodge submission on plan change

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More information was required by newer councillors to the Waitaki District Council last Wednesday before they could make a decision on whether to support the interests of consent holders on the Waitaki River.

Councillors had to decide whether to lodge a submission with Environment Canterbury in support of Plan Change 3 to the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan.

Mayor Gary Kircher delayed making a decision during the morning session until more information could be provided to councillors. A 45-minute workshop was then held in the afternoon to further explain the issues surrounding Plan Change 3.

Council noted in a report that the outcomes of the plan change supported its vision for sustainable development in the Waitaki District. In addition to addressing concerns about security of supply for irrigators, it also enhanced environmental values relating to mahinga kai and provided greater certainty for electricity generators.

The Lower Waitaki South Coastal Zone Committee and the Lower Waitaki River Management Society have, over time, aired different views on the management of the river flows and both groups were represented at Wednesday’s meeting.

The LWSCZC has sought security of supply for consent holders and the LWRMS opposes the plan change, citing concerns over the lowering of minimal flow rates. Committee members want to hear more evidence and have the chance to put forward an alternative solution which “would not increase stress on an already heavily exploited river”.

LWRMS members Linn Koevoet and John McDonald urged councillors not to support the plan change.

“In the space of 10 years, we have taken the Waitaki River from a magnificent, vast body of clean water with seemingly infinite bounty, to having an unseemly tug-of-war over the last few allocatable m3 of now doubtful quality water,” Mr Koevoet said.

“Plan Change 3 will lower the minimum flow in the current plan from 150 cumecs to 102 cumecs to allow the oldest consent holders to hold their priority water access ahead of more recently granted consent holders.”

Forty resource consents to take water existed when the water allocation plan became operative in 2006. These consents collectively abstract about 48 cubic metres per second (cumecs) of water from the Waitaki River between the Waitaki Dam and the sea. The package developed by the zone committee provides reliability of supply in the low flow years.

LWSCZC member Matt Ross was present on Wednesday and said it was important that the district council put forward a submission and took an interest in regional plans and issues that ultimately affected residents in the district.

Councillors voted to put forward a submission in support of the plan change. Submissions close on August 22 and a hearing is likely to follow, led by an independent commissioner.

By LINDA MCCARTHY