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Irrigation Proposal Irresponsible Says Fish & Game

Greater Wellington’s Support for Irrigation Proposal Irresponsible Says Fish & Game

Fish & Game New Zealand strongly criticised Greater Wellington’s (Wellington Regional Council) support for a major Wairarapa irrigation scheme proposal. It was completely unacceptable and demonstrated a clear conflict of interest, the organisation said today.

“We might have expected this kind of shonkiness from some of the more rural regions, but it is disappointing to see it alive and well in the capital,” says Fish & Game spokesman Peter Hill. “Who do the Regional Council think they are? Are they an economic development agency, favouring farmers, or are they an environmental regulator? They can’t be both things and retain their credibility.”

Greater Wellington has said in its latest “Elements” newsletter, distributed to Wellington households, that it supports this project to irrigate 30,000 hectares of farmland in the Wairarapa. The Wairarapa Regional Irrigation Project proposes to collect water from a number of rivers, store it and pipe it to the farm gate. The four distribution areas will be Opaki, Carterton, Greytown and Martinborough.

Says Peter Hill: “The Regional Council has publicly said it supports the project and it is funding a feasibility study. It is clearly signalling that this project will go ahead, irrespective of what other users of the same public water may have to say. They have made up their minds, and yet the proposal hasn’t been through any resource consent process yet.”

“The Resource Management Act exists to sort out questions like this fairly. The RMA allows the people promoting such proposals, and who want to make huge private profit out of the use of public water, as well as those who place other values on the same water resource, to have a fair and considered hearing. This requires a neutral and objective Consent Authority.”

“But in this case the Consent Authority is Greater Wellington! Just how much credibility can the Wellington public give this process, when the Consent Authority has publicly said that it supports this irrigation proposal?”

“As an affected party we have not been included by Greater Wellington in its development of this proposal. The Regional Council should be considering what the environmental impact of this will be, not just how much money can be made. What will the rivers be like with all the irrigation water taken out of them? What will the quality of the Ruamahanga River water be like, when all the wasted nutrients from thirty thousand hectares of irrigated farmland are leached into it?”

“Is Greater Wellington saying that only farmers matter? What about anglers, canoeists, trampers, tourists, rafters, hunters and environmentalists?”

“Greater Wellington in publicly declaring its support for this environmental experiment is demonstrating a clear conflict of interest in our view, and this should ring alarm bells for everyone in the Wellington Region.”

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