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Restorative Programme for Lowland Streams

July 21, 2006

MEDIA STATEMENT

Restorative Programme for Lowland Streams announced

Environment Canterbury will review upward of 600 consents in the Rakaia-Selwyn groundwater zone to return water to streams which have dried up, sustain adequate flows in other lowland streams, and ensure reliability of supply to existing consent holders.

Environment Canterbury chairman, Sir Kerry Burke, said that a series of dry winters has reduced the flows in lowland streams fed from groundwater and some streams have gone dry. Demand for groundwater in “red zones” such as Rakaia-Selwyn is clearly contributing to these low flows.

“This year we are acting to restore these groundwater systems, return water to dry streams and manage water in a sustainable way for the environment and the community. Through a restorative four point programme we will be able to provide for the health of our lowland streams and their ecosystems as well as offering reliability of supply to abstractors. This restorative programme will also ensure there is enough water left in the system each year to cushion the effects of climatically-driven dry years.

Environment Canterbury’s restorative programme for lowland streams will:

- Place clear annual limits on the amount of water every consent holder in red zones can abstract;

- Create the ability to vary those limits year-by-year depending on how much water is in the groundwater system;

- Require consent holders to measure how much water they are taking by metering their wells; and

- Control the rate of abstraction from wells that directly affect stream flows to ensure abstraction does not cause streams to go below minimum environmental flows.

“Rakaia-Selwyn is the first “red zone” where we will roll out this restorative programme. Environment Canterbury staff are working now to confirm which consents will need to be reviewed. Current estimates are that at least 600 of the 644 consents in the zone will need to be reviewed in order to meet the conditions outlined in the four points of the restorative programme,” Sir Kerry said.

All Rakaia-Selwyn consent holders will be contacted by letter within the next few months outlining details of the Restorative Programme for Lowland Streams and the specific actions that each consent holder will need to take in support of it. The Restorative Programme for Lowland Streams will be progressively rolled out in other zones under stress once the work programme is developed and resourced for each zone.

“We are under no illusions. Implementing the restorative programme for lowland streams is a major task. It is complex and will take some years to fully implement. However, the need to act is urgent. To ensure that the health of Canterbury’s lowland natural water system is improved and reliability of supply maintained we need to manage abstraction. Nature only provides us with so much water each year. The groundwater allocation zones have seen a series of increasingly dry winters as well as an increase in demand. We need enough water in these systems not only to meet the needs placed on the system each year but also to provide a buffer against future, even drier, years. The community has given us a clear indication that we need to actively manage these lowland ecosystems and we are taking decisive action that will achieve this.” Sir Kerry said.

ENDS

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