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Waitaki Bill Must Honour Water Commitments

Waitaki Bill Must Honour Water Commitments

Farmers in the Mackenzie Basin say they’re concerned the Bill to allocate water in the Upper Waitaki ignores the Government commitments guaranteeing farmers water for irrigation.

In response to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee’s report to Parliament on the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill Mackenzie Basin farmer, Denis Fastier said while the Committee had made some important changes, it ignored the 1969 Order in Council that gave effect to the Government’s deal struck with the Mackenzie Basin when hydro generation took the community’s water supply in the 1960’s.

Denis Fastier said that the Order in Council was signed by the Governor General and set out the Government’s promise that Mackenzie Basin farmers could access and use 14.7 cumecs of water for irrigation for as long as the hydro schemes operate. “This is only 1.5% of the annual flow into Lake Benmore. We made several submissions to the Committee on the Order in Council that they have chosen to ignore, “ he said.

“Parliament’s failure to keep its water promise has allowed Meridian Energy to claim the right to exclude us from getting any water to irrigate our land. We are alarmed that such a claim by a profit-making electricity generator can be made in this country and we believe our situation is a warning to all communities where hydro generators operate or look to build new schemes,” said Mr Fastier.

“We see similar promises being made now to landowners in the Lower Waitaki over Project Aqua. If the promises to us are not honoured by Parliament in this Bill, what will happen to those affected by Project Aqua?,” he asked.

The Mackenzie Basin Farmers last week sent an open letter to Parliament’s 120 MPs calling on them to honour the commitment by supporting an amendment to the Bill during its passage through Parliament.

“The reality we face is that we have no alternative other than this water to restore and enhance our soils, but there are alternatives available for electricity generation,” said Denis Fastier.

“We are determined to continue to push for an amendment to the Bill that would give recognition to the 1969 Order in Council. Promises made to communities such as ours, that suffer major upheaval and loss of water sources as a result of hydro generation schemes, must be protected and honoured by Parliament,” he said.

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