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Honour Water Promise Mackenzie Farmers Tell MPs

Honour Water Promise Mackenzie Farmers Tell MPs

Farmers in the Mackenzie Basin are calling on MPs to honour an agreement guaranteeing them water for irrigation.

Meridian Energy’s claim that it has exclusive rights to all the water in the Upper Waitaki has angered the farmers who say the Government struck a deal with the community in the 1960’s, which promised them water for irrigation in perpetuity.

In an open letter to Parliament’s 120 MPs the group say that the water was compensation for the massive disruption to the community, the local environment and the permanent loss of water resources, including rivers and wetlands that the district shouldered when the hydro schemes were set up in the area.

Local farmer Denis Fastier said the deal was done with the community in 1969 with an Order in Council that allocated an amount of water equivalent to 1.5% of the mean annual in-flow into Lake Benmore (a peak flow of 520 cubic feet per second, or 14.7 cubic metres per second per irrigation season). “This community signed up to the deal in good faith relying on Government promises that it would be in place for as long as the hydro schemes remained,” he said

“When the Order in Council lapsed, we believed that the Government’s promise remained and that we would always be able to access that water. Our community had never dreamed that an electricity company would try to lay claim to every drop of water in the river. The idea of a public resource like fresh water being given exclusively to a profit driven electricity generator is unthinkable,” Mr Fastier said.

“To uphold the assurances given to our community by the Government when hydro generation came here, we are asking Parliament now to honour its promises by reinstating the our rights that were set out in the Order in Council,” said Denis Fastier.

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