Tukituki Plan Change notified
9 May 2013
Tukituki Plan Change notified as water storage consents lodged
A major milestone has been marked for the Tukituki Catchment with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council notifying its Tukituki Plan Change for public submissions, while the council’s investment company HBRIC Ltd has formally lodged its resource consent for the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme with the Environmental Protection Authority.
The Tukituki Plan Change sets new rules for managing water and land in the catchment and sets limits and targets on nitrogen and phosphorus in the Tukituki River as required under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
The Plan Change aims to manage the excessive slime and algae growth in the Tukituki River by reducing the amount of phosphorus going into the tributaries and river over time. Science investigations confirm that reducing the phosphorus load in the catchment will deliver the biggest and quickest gains for environmental improvement.
The plan change recommends increasing minimum flows to protect fish habitats. This means some consent holders will need to stop taking water for irrigation earlier in the growing season than would previously have been the case.
HBRC recognises that the Tukituki Plan Change will reduce the reliability of water supply to current irrigators and so, in parallel, has been investigating the storage of higher river flows to give more secure supply to existing irrigators. This would also provide a source of water for new irrigation that would not otherwise be possible. This plan change and the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme are part of a strategic approach to managing the Tukituki catchment.
The public has until 31 May 2013 to make submissions on the Tukituki Plan Change.
Council has agreed that the notification of the Plan Change should line up with the lodging of resource consent applications for the Ruataniwha Water Storage Sheme. HBRC and HBRIC Ltd have requested that the Plan Change and RWSS resource consents be heard by a single Board of Inquiry as a matter of national significance, to enable independent and integrated decision-making to occur.
HBRIC Ltd is applying for 18 different consents to develop the Scheme which, if granted consent, will operate within the framework of the Tukituki Plan Change and in accordance with sound environmental practice.
HBRC should know by the beginning of June whether the Plan Change and water storage consents will be dealt with together through a Board of Inquiry. If this is the case the public will have an opportunity to comment and provide input during this process.
At the same time as the consent process is under way, work carries on to secure investors for the scheme and also gauge the level of interest from farmers to sign up for water contracts.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is committed to undertaking a further consultative process to ensure the public can have their say before a final decision is made whether or not to proceed with the Scheme. This will occur when it is clear whether a resource consent will be granted for the scheme and whether the consent conditions provide environmental protection, while enabling the project to be financially viable.
By that time HBRIC and HBRC will be able to inform the public about presently unanswered questions, such as whether the scheme is financially viable, has sufficient farmer support and attracts the required additional investor support.
This process of consent application, determination of market demand, investor support and financial viability will take until early 2014 to determine. The special consultative process will occur at that time.