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Waitaki Regional Plan soon to be operative

July 3, 2006

MEDIA STATEMENT

Waitaki Regional Plan soon to be operative

Environment Canterbury chairman Sir Kerry Burke has congratulated the Minister for the Environment on the achievement of a statutory plan for the Waitaki River catchment, the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan. If no appeals arise, the plan will be operative within weeks.

The Plan received input from a broad range of community groups, hydro-energy companies, landowners and recreationalists over a two-year period. It was developed during Meridian Energy’s hydro proposal Project Aqua, which was called off two years ago. As part of the Project Aqua process, water-related consent applications were “called-in” by the Minister for the Environment in September 2003 until the Plan was operational. Other than a transitional plan, there was previously no regional plan for the Waitaki catchment.

“It is now up to Environment Canterbury to implement this plan, which has been signed off today by the High Court following an appeal by Meridian and the Mackenzie Irrigation Company Ltd, and subsequent mediation between parties to finalise the wording of some rules,” Sir Kerry said.

“Environment Canterbury has 220 deferred consent applications associated with new and existing water takes and water discharges in the catchment. These can now be processed,” Sir Kerry said. “Some of these date back to 1998, with twice as many applications in the Upper Waitaki (above the main Waitaki Dam) as in the river system below the dam. We will be working closely with the Ministry for the Environment and the Otago Regional Council to ensure that procedures are as seamless as possible and that applicants are treated fairly under the Resource Management Act.”

Applicants will be formally notified by letter when the plan is operative and invited to get back to ECan with any changes to their original consent applications. ECan will then decide if their consent applications require notification or not, or if their application had changed markedly and a fresh application is needed. Providing applicants respond promptly, ECan is aiming to publicly notify resource consent applications by the end of 2006, with hearings later in 2007 once investigating officers’ reports were completed.

Once the deferred consent applications have been processed, ECan will begin reviewing a number of consents in the catchment to ensure compliance with the plan. However, existing consent holders have a five year period of grace before consents could be altered to bring them in line with the new environmental flow regime. In the Maerewhenua catchment tributary the period of grace is seven years.

The Waitaki catchment is the source of most of New Zealand’s hydro-energy generation and the Waitaki is one of Canterbury region’s most significant braided rivers in terms of flora and fauna habitat and fisheries. The Waitaki Plan envisages that the catchment has the potential to provide irrigation water to a wide range of rural land uses.


ENDS

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