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Water allocation issues still to be sorted out

Water allocation issues still to be sorted out

Cancellation doesn't solve water allocation woes

Today's announcement by Meridian Energy Limited that Project Aqua will not proceed does not resolve the issues around water allocation in the Waitaki catchment, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

"The Waitaki catchment remains one of New Zealand's most important river and lake systems for: energy production; recreational and other instream values. It is significant as a community and strategic national asset, and also to Ngai Tahu."

Mr Sutton said there was a major opportunity for further sustainable regional development based on irrigation.

"Irrigation using Waitaki catchment water has the potential to deliver major benefits for both the regional and national economy using only a small proportion of the available water in the catchment."

He said that removing Project Aqua's water consent applications for the Waitaki, still left more than 70 applications for the taking of water from the Waitaki catchment, including permits in both the upper Waitaki catchment and below the Waitaki Dam.

"The future allocation of water from the Waitaki has to be managed appropriately and planned to ensure the river maximises opportunities for sustainable development for the region and the nation and to ensure that the environmental, cultural and social values of the river are maintained."

Mr Sutton said the Waitaki River was a case study of the growing issues with water allocation in New Zealand as opportunities for further water development became more limited.

This wider issue has been recognized by the government in its Water Programme as part of the Sustainable development Plan of Action. Mr Sutton said this program would develop a range of options to improve the management allocation of water in New Zealand. The community will be consulted as the policy is developed over the next 18 months or so.

"So far as I am concerned, the objective should be to allocate water between competing uses, including environmental and recreational uses, so as to achieve the maximum benefit for local communities and for New Zealand as a whole.

"In order for this to be sustainable, there must be a capacity to amend allocation decisions over time, to reflect the changing needs and values of society. And this must be appropriately balanced against the need of investors ? whether hydro generation, irrigation, or anything else ? of reasonable security of access to the resource," Mr Sutton said.

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