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Preliminary decision on Waimakariri River water


May 3, 2006

MEDIA STATEMENT

Preliminary decision on Waimakariri River water for Ngai Tahu Properties Ltd
Ngai Tahu Properties Ltd (NTPL) has been told that that their consent application to take water from the Waimakariri River for irrigation can be granted. Ngai Tahu Properties Ltd plans to convert former forestry land at Eyrewell, North Canterbury, to dairying, sheep and cattle farmland.

The case is complicated by the fact that the Environment Court is still to decide who has priority under the Resource Management Act to Waimakariri River water. The two applicants competing for first place in the queue are NTPL, which had complete resource consent applications ready to be assessed by commissioners earlier this year, and Central Plains Water Trust. The Trust applied for a water abstraction permit, which is one part of its consents package, several years ago from Environment Canterbury. However, other parts of its package have only recently been lodged with Environment Canterbury and some are still to be lodged with Selwyn District Council. A joint hearing would be needed to hear the full Central Plains Water Trust application.

NTPL applied for almost 4 cumecs (cubic metres per second) of Waimakariri River water, to be comprised of the more reliable A allocation block water (22 cumecs available for allocation under the Waimakariri River Regional Plan, with a minimum flow of 41 cumecs), and the less reliable B allocation water, with a minimum flow of 63 cumecs.

In a preliminary decision, the commissioners said that “it may be years before there is any finality as to whether Central Plains Water Trust obtains a priority consent. A declaration as to priority in time for consideration of an application does not necessarily lead to a priority to the resource…In other words, even if CPWT has priority it does not necessarily follow that it will be granted the last of that A permit water. It will need to make out its case for obtaining that most valuable part of the resource.”

The commissioners concluded that if NTPL has priority to the water, the proposed take would not have any more than minor adverse effect on the hydrology, ecology or recreational amenity of the river. They were also satisfied that possible effects on downgradient groundwater quality as a result of increased nitrate contamination from intensified land use, would be minor or manageable by way of conditions. Existing users’ reliability of supply would not be affected by the additional take, the commissioners said.

The independent hearing commissioners Dr Brent Cowie and Philip Milne, appointed by Environment Canterbury, have invited further written evidence and submissions from Ngai Tahu Properties Ltd, Waimakariri Irrigation Ltd, Central Plains Water Trust and Environment Canterbury’s reporting officers by 5 pm, May 15. The hearing may reconvene.

A copy of the 68-page preliminary decision is on ECan’s website – http://www.ecan.govt.nz/Resource+Consents/Hearing-decisions.htm

ENDS

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