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Councils Want Extended Water Allocation Process

South Island Councils Want Extended Water Allocation Process

The South Island’s councils have joined forces to seek a second round of submissions on the Water Allocation Plan for the Waitaki Catchment.

All 29 regional, territorial and city councils resolved to send a letter to Environment Minister Marian Hobbs this week requesting that the government effect a legislative change that will enable the Water Allocation Board to publish a second draft to enable a further round of submissions.

They also expressed concern that the Draft Water Allocation Plan will compromise the well being of local, regional and national communities.

Representatives from Local Government New Zealand’s zone five and six, which covers the entire South Island, met in Christchurch in early May. Items discussed included the draft plan, which was released by the Government appointed Board in February.

Waitaki District Council Chief Executive Michael Ross gave a presentation on the draft plan’s minimum flow regime and highlighted concerns over the its potential to undermine reliable water supply for irrigation as well as the likelihood of significant increases in winter electricity prices.

Selwyn District Mayor and Chairman of the Canterbury Mayoral Forum Michael McEvedy said water allocation was a significant issue for Canterbury’s future development. The plan’s proposed minimum flow levels and the resulting necessity for higher storage levels in the Waitaki dams were “alarming”.

“As it stands, the plan compromises the efficiency of hydro generation on the Waitaki River and is detrimental to security of supply for the whole country. Taking generational capacity away from an existing system when more generation is needed is a backwards step when we should be planning ahead.”

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno said the possibility of higher electricity prices was a disaster for Southern districts.

"None of us finds further price increases or the prospect of black-outs acceptable. The water allocation plan has to balance the interests of the environment against the present and future needs of the community."

Submissions on the draft plan closed on April 20 with hearings due to be held in June and a final plan completed in September. Appeals can only be made on points of law.

In March this year, representatives from the Waitaki, Mackenzie, Waimate and Timaru District Councils as well as the Otago Regional Council and Environment Canterbury wrote to Board Chairman Judge David Sheppard seeking a further round of submissions. Their request was declined.

Waitaki District Mayor Alan McLay said he believed the process dictated by the Waitaki Act was now out of date and needed to be revisited by the Government.

“I’m concerned that we are locked into a process devised when Project Aqua was under consideration. That project has since been withdrawn yet the Board has no choice but to press on with the original time frame. A more considered approach would serve all New Zealanders better,” he said.

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