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Art exhibition to save water in Mackenzie country

Media release – June 1, 2008

Christchurch women staging art exhibition on Tuesday to launch campaign to save water in the Mackenzie country

Two Christchurch artists deeply concerned about loss of water in the Mackenzie Country open an art exhibition on Tuesday to launch their campaign.

Artist friends Sally Hope and Jane Zusters are staging a month-long exhibition at the Ng Gallery in Christchurch to raise money to fight the water grab intended for the Mackenzie country.

Over 28 applications for large volumes of water are pending in the Mackenzie country with a major hearing scheduled for August this year.

``We are concerned at the effect the taking and diverting of water in the Mackenzie country for intensive farming will have on in-stream ecosystems, water quality and the cost to our beloved landscape,’’ Zusters said today.

Among the many artists exhibiting is outspoken Otago conservationist Grahame Sydney.

Zusters has lodged a submission to the hearing opposing the applications to grant water. She is worried about the future shape of the picturesque Mackenzie Basin as its conservation values come under threat.

Large tracts of the tussock-covered leasehold farm Mackenzie country are up for tenure review.

``As a nation we need to maintain and protect the Mackenzie’s nationally significant views important for New Zealand’s national identity. Redirecting much of the water to turn the Mackenzie into a farmland will destroy that significant inherent value. ‘’

The Mackenzie holds iconic picture postcard views for visitors on their way to Mt Cook, the lakes, Queenstown, Wanaka or the West Coast. The basin south of Twizel to Omarama has greened up and is already a giant dairy farm with centre pivot irrigators.

Zusters, who has written a poem called the Ballad of the Mackenzie Water Thief, said the tenure review process was damaging the South Island landscape.

``Places like the Mackenzie basin is a special part of the planet and should be protected forever. The natural character of the semi-arid landscapes is being lost.’’

Hope said she could see many South Island rivers dry up or damaged as a result of the big uptake in water rights.

.``This is an exquisite slice of New Zealand and I am crying for it a river of tears".

``We want to save the all of the Mackenzie country from going green and keep out those centre pivot irrigators, preserve the birds and water quality.

``We feel we have a responsibility to future generations to protect this legacy. These applicants, if granted, have the water for 35 years,’’ Hope said.’


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