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Water quality & flow key issues for Waitaki River

Water quality and future water flow are key issues for Waitaki River

David Parker Delivers Oral Submission To The Waitaki Water Allocation Board

Otago MP David Parker today delivered an oral submission to the Waitaki Water Allocation Board hearings in Oamaru on the future use of water in the Waitaki River.

Mr Parker said the Waitaki Water Allocation Board planning process currently being undertaken is the most important economic and environmental issue to have faced North Otago for decades.

“It has major consequences for farming, electricity generation and the environment which are crucial not just for North Otago but also our nation,” he said.

The key points in the submission include:

Hydro-electric power generation is the top priority above the Waitaki Dam.

The minimum flow below the Waitaki Dam should be high enough to sustain the environment.

But existing and consented irrigation can be sustained even with an appropriate minimum flow - i.e. the minimum flow should not increase constraints to consented irrigation

Agreement that additional water can be allocated to irrigation below the Waitaki dam but concern that water quality will deteriorate from additional irrigation in the future in the absence of rules controlling nutrient discharges and livestock effluent.

Town water supplies are stretched from Oamaru to Dunedin. Growing populations and drier rivers from global warming mean more water should be allocated to town supplies.

• Controls on mixing of waters between sub-catchments are needed to prevent the spread of Lagarosiphon lake weed, which has recently become established in Lake Benmore.

The submission can be viewed in full at www.labour.org.nz.

In the submission Mr Parker said that the Waitaki River system from the lakes to the Waitaki Dam should remain as it is to sustain the hydro-generating stations it supplies.

“The Waitaki River downstream should remain a powerful braided river sustaining birds, fish, recreation and irrigation for the region,’ he said. Mr Parker said the river could not sustain a reduction in flow to the very much lower levels proposed by Meridian Energy in its now defunct Project Aqua. He supported “a higher minimum flow than (Meridian Energy’s) application required”.

He expressed alarm at the seriousness of water quality in east coast rivers on the South Island.

Mr Parker’s background includes environmental law and commerce. He is a member of the Finance and Expenditure and the Local Government & Environment Select Committees in Parliament.

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